Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Great Waldingfield, Suffolk

St Lawrence was padlocked with no sign of a keyholder which is a shame as this is a resplendent building in the heart of the village and there seems to be no apparent reason for it to be kept locked. So I took exteriors and moved on, accidentally, to Acton.

ST LAWRENCE. (Built by John Appleton at the end of the C14. L G) Perp, with some flushwork decoration, chiefly of a chequerboard pattern. W tower with diagonal buttresses of four set-offs. Nave and aisle. Clerestory with single, not double windows. Inscription on the S  side in the battlements: ‘Pray for the (soul)’ - probably of John Appleton. S porch with flushwork. Its entrance and the S doorway have fleurons in the jambs and arches. The N porch is presumably of the restoration of 1827-9. The chancel was rebuilt in 1866-9 by Butterfield. Interior with tall arcades. Piers with four shafts and four small hollows. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with heavy quatrefoils. - BENCH ENDS. With poppy-heads. - COMMUNION RAIL. From St Michael Cornhill in the City of London. With twisted balusters, and enriched with leaf and garlands. Probably by William Cleere c. 1670-5. - STAINED GLASS. The E and W windows by Gibbs 1869 and 1877; a N aisle window by Westlake, 1877, two in the N aisle by Lavers, 1885 and 1887, and one in the S aisle, 1882, by the same. - PLATE. Elizabethan Cup, repaired 1618; Almsdish 1701.

St Lawrence (3)

Headstone (1)

GREAT WALDINGFIELD. The villagers occupying its snug little cottages enjoy the peace of a secluded corner of the countryside, but they are in touch with great scenes and great names. They can lay hands on fragments of London and of the Eternal City; they can see and touch something seen and touched by Pharaoh. The lofty clerestoried church is 14th century, and has a fine tower. The south porch, with a mitre over it, has flowers in its arches, and the old west door has tracery and foliage on its panels. Below the clerestory windows are quaint heads and more flowers. One of the windows has a medley of delicately coloured old glass in which are two crowns, four flaming suns, and two golden canopies. The chancel is a treasury of surprise and interest. Panelling the lower part of the sanctuary walls is a mosaic of marble fragments collected from ruined temples in Rome by two ladies of the parish. The pieces were fitted together by an Italian artist and brought home intact. There is granite here from Mount Sinai, and with it pieces of syenite, once part of a colossal statue of Rameses lying in the sands of Egypt.

The woodwork of the chancel is believed to have been carved by Grinling Gibbons for Wren’s fine church of St Michael in Cornhill, where it remained until last century. There are fine spiral rails, some worked into the choir-stalls and some at the altar; other woodwork includes poppyheads with flowers, foliage, dragons, and birds. The remainder of the woodwork from St Michael’s sanctuary we found at the vicarage, fluted columns with cherubs and foliage capitals, and splendid panelling carved with festoons of flowers and fruit.

Here lies John Hopkins, a son of Gloucestershire who was vicar here in the 16th century. Here he died, having linked his name forever with that of Thomas Sternhold by setting our people singing Psalms. They produced the first metrical version of the Psalms set to modern music, and their book was a bestseller before the Spanish Armada came, more copies of it having been sold since than of any other book except the Prayer Book and the Bible. In three centuries this treasure of the church has run into over 600 editions. Old Thomas Fuller counted Hopkins one of the best poets of Tudor England and he was more than a poet, for he was filled with deep sympathy for the suffering and oppressed, and he wrote verses for Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

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