Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Elmswell, Suffolk

St John the Divine dominates the surrounding countryside, is highly visible, situated right at the edge of the village on a fairly busy road and is therefore, obviously, locked.

Having made a specific journey out of my catchment area to visit this church, which internet research (unusual I know), led me to believe would be open, this was particularly galling - it's bloody magnificent though.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. W tower with ‘probably the finest flint and stone devices’ of Suffolk (Cautley). They include two chalices and a lily in a vase. Many emblems and initials in the battlements and also panelling. S aisle (much renewed) and S porch also with flushwork emblems; N aisle of 1872; chancel of 1864. Perp five-bay arcade. The clerestory not with double the number of windows. Inside below the windows a fleuron frieze. On this wall shafts for the former roof. - FONT. Base with Ox, two Eagles, Pelican. Bowl with shields in foiled shapes. On the shields the letters of the name I. Hedge. Retooled. - PARCLOSE SCREEN. Good, with two-light divisions. - BENCH ENDS. Some, with poppy-heads and blank tracery. - MONUMENT. Sir Robert Gardener d. 1619. Standing monument with stiff semi-reclining figure. By his feet a rhinoceros, his crest. To the l. his son, kneeling. At the foot of the monument lie Sir Robert’s robes and part of his armour. Two columns carry a large coffered arch. - (CHURCHYARD CROSS. The base is old and has good carvings. LG).

St John the Divine (1)

St John the Divine (2)

ELMSWELL. To this village in 1433 came the devout young Henry the Sixth, guest of the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, who was lord of the manor here with a Grange where a king might dwell in comfort. The abbot and his royal visitor would have come riding along the lord’s highway which linked this place with the abbey eight miles away, and parts of it can still be traced.

On a green hill above a little stream is a splendid church of the 14th and 15th centuries. The porch and the tower are remarkable for their elaborate flint and stone ornament with wheels and crosses, and pots of lilies running round the base of the tower, on the buttresses, and along the parapets. On a buttress near the priest’s door is a mass dial.

Inside above the south door is a grim old stone head. The line lofty tower arch rests on two round columns with graceful capitals. There is a 14th century font with a bowl supported by eight angels and guarded by three eagles and a stag, ten richly-carved 14th century benches with fine poppyheads, and a medieval screen with a quaint little man looking out from the tracery at the top and birds from the foliage below. The chancel has a marble tablet to Joseph Lawson, who ministered here for 54 years last century, and the north chapel has a magnificent monument to Sir Robert Gardener, a 16th century Chief Justice of Ireland. Resplendent in red robes and a blue waistcoat, his robe trimmed with gold and lined with ermine, he rests his skull-capped head on a red and green cushion, and has in one hand his gloves and in the other a book, marking the page with his finger.

At his feet kneels William, "son of good hope," richly attired, and between them is a queer heraldic creature.

The churchyard cross has a 14th century base with tracery and canopied niches, and just outside are the almshouses founded by the benevolent Irish judge.

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