Monday, 18 February 2013

Bradfield Combust, Suffolk

From the exterior I assumed that All Saints was Victorian built - having missed, or more accurately not noticed because I assumed I was looking at etc.., the Roman tiles in the east chancel wall - but stepping in to the ugly (and I imagine nowadays unnecessary) south aisle you almost immediately notice two large medieval wallpaintings which immediately put you right.

I agree with Pevsner when he says "very mixed and not very interesting" but rate the paintings much higher than he does considering them, but particularly St George, to be amongst, if not the, best I've seen in Suffolk. The other item of note here is the Norman font though somewhat spoilt, to my mind, by the later carvings.

The name commemorates the burning of the Hall at the time of the riots against the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds in 1327.

ALL SAINTS. Nave, chancel, S aisle, bellcote. Very mixed and not very interesting. Is the chancel E window with three unenclosed pointed trefoils a true copy of the original? C14 arcade with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. - FONT. Square, Norman, with scalloped underside. Later in the Middle Ages the heads at the corners and one quatrefoil panel on the bowl were carved. - SCREEN. Two parts of the dado were re-used for the organ seat. - PAINTINGS. Large, once splendid St George of c. 1400; very large St Christopher. - STAINED GLASS. In the S aisle two windows with glass of c. 1855 in the C13 style. - PLATE. Cup 1570; Paten 1748.*

* Pre-Reformation BELL with the emblems of the four Evangelists.

Wallpainting St George (1)

Wallpainting St Christopher (1)


BRADFIELD COMBUST. Its odd name reminds us of a little piece of Suffolk history 600 years ago, when there was land here belonging to Bury Abbey. The people quarrelled with the monks, burning down their grange and at the same time plundering the abbey itself.

A 400-year-old inn by the church has an attractive sign outside and some fine beams in its low rooms. It is opposite the park, where a new house stands in the place of the one in which Bradfield’s famous man spent most of his 79 years. He was the agriculturist and writer Arthur Young. This is the village in which he was brought up, and here in the old churchyard he sleeps. Though his old home has vanished we can still see the stately avenue of limes which led from it to the high road. For 200 years the bees have been coming to the flowers on these trees planted by his father, and in this park Arthur Young himself planted about 40,000 larches and oaks. His ancestors were here soon after Shakespeare’s day, and many of them are remembered in the 14th century church, a place of such great peace that a brown squirrel was sitting by the timber porch when we called. The charming open bell-turret has three bells, and there is a built-up doorway through which the priest once went. The church has a finely carved stone pulpit and a splendid Norman font with an oak cover; and on one of the walls are black and red paintings of St Christopher, St George, and an angel; they have been here since about 1400. One beautiful window* shows Christ in Glory, in memory of a rector’s wife; another has the Women at the Sepulchre, in memory of an Arthur Young who died in 1855; and the east window, a very fine Crucifixion, is a tribute to the famous Arthur Young, whose father was rector here 40 years. Another tablet in the vestry has the last pathetic words of Martha Anne Young, who was only 14 when she passed away in 1797:

Play for me, Papa. Now! Amen.

An altar tomb in the churchyard marks the place where Arthur Young has been lying with his wife since 1820, and a more delightful resting-place he could not have desired.

Creator of the literature of agriculture, he was born in London in 1741, was irregularly educated, spent some years in a merchant’s ofiice, and then, his father dying heavily in debt, came here to farm his mother’s land. Marrying at 24, he took a farm for himself, and from this experiences sprang the first of many books. His Political Arithmetic won him a European reputation. His Annals of Agriculture, for which he induced George the Third to write him an article under the name of Ralph Robinson of Windsor, had run to nearly 50 volumes before his death. His most famous work described his travels in France, where he perceived abuses leading inevitably to the Revolution, whose early stages he lived through.

No phase of life on the land was left untouched by his vivid pen, which popularised scientific agriculture with the aristocracy, and left pictures which live in literature of scenes he loved. He was appointed Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. One of his visitors at Bradfield was Fanny Burney, a relative by marriage, who greatly esteemed him and described his home in her novel Camilla. They were together present at the Warren Hastings trial at Westminster. His closing years were unhappily saddened by blindness.

* This has either gone or my taste differs from Mee's - I found all the glass here execrable.


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