Thursday, 29 September 2011

Depden, Suffolk

Despite several, very, helpful signs advising me to phone a selection of four keyholders before visiting St Mary the Virgin I had, unfortunately, run out of pay as you go credit and, more importantly time. Instead I set off at a brisk pace along a public footpath through woods, past a pond and alongside fields with frequent arrows and advisories but with absolutely no sign of a church.

Eventually you step into a clearing in another wood to face the north porch and, when I went, hundreds of pheasant poults, in fact the whole walk was accompanied with poults and partridges - this is obviously quite a large shoot.

The location is stunning but the exterior less so, bordering on the mundane, and I headed back to the car deciding to check Simon Knott's excellent Suffolk Churches website (he also does Norfolk and another great site for Cambridgeshire can be found here) when I got home to see if I should settle for exteriors only - Depden is at the further reaches of my travels - or whether I should re-visit - a re-visit is planned for next week with phone credit and plenty of time, I want those interiors.

UPDATE: For reasons that are unclear next week turned into five months later but on my way back from Bury St Edmunds last week I took the opportunity to stop at Depden to get the interiors. Having phoned one of keyholders, and passing the intense interrogation of her husband,I finally got into the church and was largely disappointed, I think that after the glories of Bury anything was going to be a let down.

Having said that, when I processed the photographs I realised my disappointment was the result of over expectation and that the Anne Jermyn/Drury brass was very fine and that the east window glass is very fine indeed. Well worth the wait and effort.

ST MARY. No road leads to the church. Footpath from the N, off the main road. The church is of septaria and flint. Norman S doorway with one order of single-scalloped capitals and one zigzag in the arch. Beautiful late C13 Piscina in the chancel, of two lights, cusped, with a quatrefoiled circle. The tracery of nave and chancel, if it represents the original, is of the same date. E window Dec (reticulated tracery). Perp W tower. N porch timber, C17, with side balusters, badly treated. - FONT. Octagonal, early C18, with shields in cartouches. - BENCHES. With poppy-heads and blank panels of good tracery; a whole set. - STAINED GLASS. In the E window original canopies, chiefly dark yellow and green. Beneath this later scenes and bits; foreign. - PLATE. A whole set, silver-gilt, given by Bishop Sparrow of Norwich, who was born at Depden. The Cup is dated 1680. - Paten 1719. - MONUMENT. Lady Anne Jermyn and her husbands, 1572. Kneeling brass figures in a stone frame with two arches.

St Mary the Virgin (5)

East window (8)

Anne Drury 1572 (3)

DEPDEN. Out in the fields we must go to find its little church, walking by footpaths with a tall yew hedge for company at the end of the way. It was built by the Normans and the English builders who followed them; and leading to what is now the vestry is a Norman arch with a fine band of zigzag ornament resting on two round columns. In the east window is some beautiful old glass showing canopy work on a background of colour, but the finest possession of the church is its collection of massive old pews with embattled backs, traceried ends, and poppyheads. On a memorial in the nave is a beautiful brass portrait of Lady Anne Jermyn kneeling with her first husband and their six children, the husband with his gauntlets hanging on a desk and his helmet resting on the ground. Another portrait on the same memorial shows Lady Anne with her puffed shoulders and frilled sleeves just as before, and her second husband, Sir Thomas Jermyn, in his armour. They were an Elizabethan family who lived close by at the hall. The communion plate used at this altar was given by a son of Depden, the Royalist bishop Anthony Sparrow. He was known in the 17th century for his theological books, and it is on record that he gave £400 for the rebuilding of St Paul’s.


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