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St Mary's Church History

The History of St. Mary's Church

Description from 1947 Blyth Rural District "Listed Buildings" for the Church of St. Mary (Grade B, building identified by number 294 on map sheet 21):

15th century nave and square tower. 14th century chancel and south porch. Flint and stone dressing, lead roof to nave, pantiles to chancel. Fine 15th century double hammer beam roof. 15th century font. 14th century carved bench ends and poppy heads. 17th century canopied pulpit. Tablet on tower buttress records Thomas Edward was builder and Ralph Colnett assistant.

The church throughout the years




The photographs in the top row show the church in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

The second row shows the mid-1900s up to the present day.

Extracts from the church history booklet (on sale within the church), reproduced with permission:

The church which has its origins in the 13th century was originally dedicated to St. Andrew. When and why it was re-dedicated to St. Mary is not known, but one source puts the date of this as 1855.

The nave was rebuilt in the 15th century and given a superb double hammerbeam roof (fig.1, below). The carved figures, all of which, except the two, either side, at the west end have been much defaced. This is a very visible part of the damage done by William Dowsing and his men who during the Commonwealth worked through many of Suffolk's churches removing anything that smacked of 'Popery'.

The church suffered particularly severely at their hands as at the time a noted Royalist and Malignant, Sir John Cotton, son of the Lord Mayor of London, was Lord of the Manor and resident of the parish. Sir John had given large sums towards the clothing of the King's troops. All the figures in stone and wood were mutilated (fig.2, below).

During major repairs and rebuilding started in 1890 (the first major repairs for nearly 200 years), the east window was replaced with a gift by Sir Auckland Colvin in 1899 (fig.3, below). Sir Auckland also donated a new organ in 1901, and an oak lectern (fig.4, below).

Figure 1. Double hammerbeam roof.
Figure 2.  Defaced figures on the font.
 Figure 3. East window.

 Figure 4. Oak lectern.

Until this time, the seating had been Jacobean (early 17th century) box pews, but these were replaced with individual wooden chairs. The box pews had incorporated earlier, 15th century, carved pew ends. A few of these pew ends were saved, and stored in the loft of one of the Rectory barns where they remained until rediscovered in 1928 by the newly-arrived Rector, Rev. Thos. Brown as he was being shown round by the churchwarden, George Whymark. Their enthusiasm for their find was such that, working from these originals, additional pew ends were created by Archdeacon Darling's group of woodcarvers based at Eyke. The seats and backs of the benches were mostly made in Earl Soham in the workshops of Wm. Baldry. The spirit of the original pew ends is so well caught that in some cases it is difficult to tell the old from the new. The salvaged medieval ends can in fact be found in the first five rows. These pews were installed during the 1930s.

Electricity was first installed in the church in 1927. The candelabra now hanging throughout the church are the work of Hector Moore, a blacksmith in the neighbouring village of Brandeston, and internationally renowned.

The tower has a peal of six bells, the oldest of which, like the tower itself, date from about 1470. The bells were rehung in 1898 and again in 1976, and are still in regular use.