5 more of Suffolk’s most interesting churches
- Credit: Barry Pullen
There’s no doubt that Suffolk is home to some wonderful churches. Here’s just five more places of worship that have some fascinating stories to tell.
Badingham’s St John the Baptist Church
Nestled in the small East Suffolk village of Badingham is where you will find St John the Baptist church. Located an old pagan holy site called the knoll of Burstonhaugh, this Grade I-listed church can be traced back to the 13th century – although it is thought that an earlier Norman church occupied the site.
One of the most fascinating features of this church is its Seven Sacrament font – one of only 13 throughout the entire county. It has eight panels, and is believed to have been carved towards the end of the 15th century. Carvings featured on the font include depictions of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist, the Penance, and the Last Rites.
Also located within the church’s chancel is the early 17th century tomb of William Cotton of Colston Hall, a ‘batchelour’ of the Civil Law, and his wife Lucie. Ornately decorated, beneath the tomb’s effigies are a pair of kneeling, beautifully dressed children.
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Another interesting fact about this church is that when the sun rises, the light shines through the east window – meaning the church faces north-east to south-west, rather than the more usual east-west.
Bawdsey’s St Mary the Virgin Church
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This Suffolk settlement is home to St Mary the Virgin Church – a 14th century place of worship with an interesting history. This church had to undergo a restoration during the Victoria era as it caught fire in 1841 after fireworks were let off in the tower on Bonfire Night. The tower – which was once 90 feet high – was truncated to 60 feet.
Located within the church however are a handful of monuments that are worth checking out. Firstly, there is a monument to Edward Cavell of nearby Bawdsey Hall, who died in 1867. Beneath this you will find a plaque dedicated to Edith Cavell, great-niece of Edward and a World War I nurse who was executed as a spy after she was caught helping 200 Allied servicemen escape German-occupied Belgium.
And finally, just near the church’s altar is a memorial to World War I soldier John Quilter of Bawdsey Manor, who died in Gallipoli. He was the son of local brewing magnate Cuthbert Quilter, whose family mausoleum is located just outside the church.
Blythburgh’s Holy Trinity Church
Located in what could be described as one of the county’s most picturesque villages, Blythburgh’s Holy Trinity Church dates back to the 12th century. Although, it is thought there has been a church on the banks of the River Blyth as early as 630AD.
The current church however was built after Henry IV gave the canons permissions to construct it in the early 15th century. A few centuries later and the church however suffered an unfortunate visit by notable 17th century iconoclast WIlliam Dowsing, who removed an assortment of monuments throughout including ‘20 superstitious pictures, two crosses, and 20 cherubim’.
One feature that Dowsing didn’t manage to take with him though is the church’s stunning carved medieval angel ceiling. If you look closely, a number of the angels are littered with musket holes, after some of the village’s residents tried to shoot down a family of jackdaws that had made a nest for themselves in the ceiling rafters.
The church is also home to a Seven Sacrament font, and a number of wooden benches adorned with a series of intricate carvings. These hail from the medieval era, and were painstakingly restored during the Victorian period. Some of these depict the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Acts of Mercy, and a variety of angelic figures.
Cavendish’s St Mary’s Church
Cavendish is well-known for its picturesque village green, iconic thatched cottages and of course its historic St Mary’s Church. While this settlement’s church goes back to the 14th and 15th century, the Domesday Book of 1086 mentions a Saxon church which once stood in its place.
Inside the church, behind the altar, you will find a 16th century reredos. Once belonging to hymn writer Athelstan Riley, it depicts the Crucifixion and is set within a gilded frame designed by architect Sir Ninian Comper.
Elsewhere in the church, on the south aisle wall, visitors can cast their eyes upon a plaque dedicated to local philanthropist Sue Ryder. Ryder, who was a longtime resident of Cavendish, established the first Sue Ryder care home within the village in 1952.
And finally, the church boasts a beautiful 15th century brass lectern. In the shape of an eagle, it is though this was gifted to the church by Queen Elizabeth I.
East Bergholt’s St Mary’s Church
Readers may best recognise this 14th century church from the works of famed artist John Constable, who featured it in a number of his paintings.
Its most interesting feature though has to be its detached 16th century bellcage. A new church tower was started in 1525 with help from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. However, his fall from power five years later meant he didn’t have the funds to see off the project.
Instead, a wooden bellcage was constructed, and while it was intended to be temporary – it still stands to this day, and houses the church’s five bells.
Elsewhere, within St Mary’s churchyard is the Constable family tomb, and John Constable’s parents are buried here. However, he is in fact buried at London’s Hampstead Cemetery. In addition, William Lott, owner of Willy Lott’s Cottage (which is famously the subject of Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ painting), is also buried in the churchyard.
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