Thursday, 8 September 2011

Tostock, Suffolk

The glory of St Andrew are the poppyheads on the nave benches. Some are obviously replicas but most are original and it's often hard to tell which are which - and that's the genius. There are about 50 in total.

ST ANDREW. Chancel of the late C13. The E window has three lights and quatre-foiled circles. The chancel arch is well detailed. Dec W tower with buttresses decorated with flushwork panelling. Dec S porch with very strange side windows, now largely blocked. They are oblong, and have one reticulation motif in the middle, with four mouchettes, two above, two below. Perp N and S aisles. Both have a recess in the exterior of the E wall. The N aisle front has a rough flint and stone chequer effect. The nave roof alternates between arch-braced principals and double hammerbeams. The latter have false hammer-posts below (they are really pendants) and false hammerbeams above. Figures on the pendants. Tracery in the spandrels. - FONT. Octagonal, early C14. Fluted stem, leaf or flower panels on the bowl, the carving crude, but the leaves intended to be true to nature. - BENCHES. A set with poppy-heads and beasts and birds on the arms and carved backs. - COMMUNION RAIL. Of c. 1660. - STAINED GLASS. Bits of original glass in the E window. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup; Paten 1558.

Poppyhead (9)

Poppyhead (11)

Poppyhead (25)

Poppyhead (42)

TOSTOCK. Its delights are old thatched cottages, a medieval church among the trees in a lane, and two village greens, on one of which a rich Saxon buckle was found last century. The church is a chequered one, with a fine embattled tower 500 years old, and a well carved gable cross a century older still. The 15th century nave has a very old roof. The narrow 14th century chancel has an arch as old as itself, and windows a little younger. The 600-year-old font is adorned with elaborate foliage, but the best carving here is in wood rather than stone. It is on the rich old benches in the nave, whose fine poppyheads include a unicorn and a cockatrice. The backs of the benches are also carved, and the arm-rests are fashioned into birds and animals and angels.

In a wheelwright’s house in Tostock was born the Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes, who lengthened his name as he lengthened his years, for he began as Sibs, became Sibbs, and ended as Sibbes. As a boy he would hear the bells ringing for the defeat of the Great Armada. He became one of London’s most popular preachers and writers, his best-remembered book being The Bruised Reede and Smoaking Flax, which came out a few years before the Civil War. Richard Baxter admired him, and Izaak Walton thought so much of his books that he wrote:

Of this blest man let this just praise be given,
Heaven was in him before he was in heaven.

Not long after the Civil War there was born here the distinguished lawyer Roger North, so learned as a judge that they nicknamed him Solomon North, and so proud of his family that he wrote the Lives of the Norths.

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