Thursday, 14 October 2010

Great Bradley, Suffolk

Having read the comparison of porch doors at Kirtling I headed off to Great Bradley, via an extraordinarily circuitous route, and was not disappointed.

The interior is relatively dull but with some interesting features including a fireplace in the tower which was supposedly used to bake Eucharist wafers, a C14th font and sedilla and some nice, modernish, windows.

The exterior however is great with a Tudor porch reputedly built from bricks made by Henry VIII's personal brick maker, lion grotesques on the tower buttresses, some well preserved C17th gravestones and, of course, the magnificent Norman south doorway.

ST MARY. Late Norman S doorway with spiral-fluted shafts, decorated capitals, and several zigzags in the arch. The tympanum decoration has disappeared. Is this later than the simpler N doorway with scalloped capitals to the shafts? Perhaps not necessarily so. Late Norman also the chancel arch with imposts with a slight notch between the vertical and the diagonal member. The arch is pointed but has only one slight chamfer. Chancel in its present form mostly of c. 1300; shortened in the C18. One bay of fine Sedilia remain, but the chancel is over-restored. Perp W tower. On the first set of set-offs of the buttresses carved animals and arms. Inside a fireplace and an elementary smoke-outlet in the wall with an odd baffle in front. The SE stair-turret is higher than the tower. Early Tudor S porch of brick with a stepped gable containing six niches. Brick porch windows. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. - PULPIT. An C18 two-decker.- PLATE. Paten 1684; Cup 1743; Cup 1809.

GREAT BRADLEY. It is little more than an inn and a few cottages at the cross-roads, with the River Stour running by the church like an infant stream. The chancel arch, although pointed, still has its Norman pillars, and there are two Norman doorways. One is very handsome with five rows of zigzag, graceful pillars, and two heads; the other stands plain in the shade of two giant sycamores which grew up to guard it when it was centuries old. The 15th century tower has lions on its big corner buttresses. Inside it has a fireplace with a chimney opening in the wall above, a thing rarely seen in churches and possibly used long ago for making sacred wafers. The brick porch, with niches in its crow-stepped gable, is Tudor; we were told that its bricks were made by “Henry the VIIIth’s own brickmaker.” The font with floral carving on its bowl is 500 years old, but the most astonishing possession of the church is a bell which has rung in over 600 New Years. For six centuries it has summoned the villagers to church; it has been tolled for their comings and their goings; it rang when William Nash was coming to preach his first sermon in 1728 and in 1783 when he came to preach his last, and it is ringing still.


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