Thursday, 24 February 2011

Sudbury, Suffolk

Due to extraordinarily poor research, actually to be honest none whatsoever, I hadn't realised that Sudbury is the home of three churches - All Saints, St Gregory and St Peter - and since I'd driven to Sudbury on a whim I assumed that this was the church. Which is a bit boring as I now have to go back and do the other two.

All Saints is externally stunning, a proper Suffolk church: majestic and commanding, it must have been amazing when it was built but feels crowded by subsequent development around it. That said it's the outside that impresses while the interior is a huge let down through a combination of William Dowsing and a Victorian restoration. However there are highlights including fantastic wood corbels, some really good Victorian poppyheads and the Eden family tree in the north chapel sadly obscured by the organ.

All Saints Church was first built in Sudbury in the 12th century when from 1150 until the reformation it was appropriated to the Abbey of St Albans. A flint and rubble church, built principally in the perpendicular style (1375 - 1550) the present church was erected between 1350 -1490, with the wide aisle being built in 1460. The chancel pre-dates the rest of the church being built around the early 1300's in the decorative style

The north aisle was probably built in 15th century as a chapel for the Waldegrave family and then the Eden family. Thomas Eden became patron of the living at the Dissolution and was Clerk of the Star Chamber in 1551. Although most of the chapel is now taken up with the organ, a painted genealogy of the Eden‘s family dating from 1622, though faded, can still be seen. The Burkitt family had a vault in the aisle and they were related to Oliver Cromwell and entertained the poet John Bunyan when he visited Sudbury.

The large mausoleum in the middle of the churchyard is that of the Gainsborough family, merchants of the town. Thomas Gainsborough, the artist, was born in Sudbury although he is not buried in All Saints Church.


ALL SAINTS, Friars Street. At the foot of the town, not far from the bridge. Perp W tower with big angle buttresses and big SE stair-turret. Nave and aisles, the N aisle c. 1459 (bequest towards its building). Clerestory with doubled windows. Chancel with family chapels N (Eden family) and S (Felton family). The former chapel was building in 1465. To the N of the chancel also a two-storeyed vestry attachment with barred E windows. The arch into it from the chancel is blocked. Arcades of five bays, the piers of the same design as at St Peter. In an arch moulding small suspended shields and fleurons. Good cambered roofs in nave and aisles. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, simple. - PULPIT. With Perp tracery panels. - READER’S DESKS.With some Perp tracery panels. - SCREENS to the N and S chapels . Large, with one-light divisions and much cusped and crocketed detail (cf. St Peter). - DOORS. N and W doors with tracery. - PAINTING. Entertaining family tree of the Eden family in the N chapel; early C17. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup and Cover; Flagon 1757; Patens 1761. 
 Corbel (33)

Eden family genealogy (3)

Poppyhead (4)

It is in All Saint’s that some of Gainsborough’s kinsmen lie, though others lie in the Congregational burial-ground. The church is of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Its tower has four grotesque animals at the corners and a green spire. It has in its belfry the county’s heaviest bell, weighing about a ton. The church has original roofs above the nave and aisles, the 15th century font, a reading desk with panels from the ancient screen, and a pulpit which is the glory of the church. It is one of the rare 15th century oak pulpits still surviving, marvellously preserved through having been covered with deal boards. The vicar who removed these boards in 1850 must have been thrilled to see the slender buttresses dividing the traceried panels, crowned with an embattled cornice. Very charming it all is on its graceful octagonal stem. The church has three glorious  old screens with pinnacles rising to arches crowned by a riot of tracery and rich cornices.

There is a family tree of the Edens painted on the wall 300 years ago, with about 60 shields still recognisable, and wall tributes to an 18th century vicar, John Piper, who was here for 56 years, to a bell-ringer of nearly 60 years, and to a sexton of nearly 40 years.


Flickr set.

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