A Brief History

Brief history and description of the church building(s), contents, churchyard and setting.

The church sits on a small rise in the centre of the village and has a prominent local landscape impact on the north side of the Fynn Valley forming part of the ‘Fynn Valley Walk’.  

There is evidence that some of the masonry on the south wall of the nave dates back to the late 9th or early 10th century. However, All Saints Church itself was established and built at the end of the thirteenth century, when the Bishop of Norwich installed the first incumbent and rector, Giles Dodingesles in 1296. It consisted firstly of the chancel and the small nave portraying its early English origins with decorated windows and priests door, with the tower and southern porch entrance though its base was a later addition sometime in the 14th century.   During the late 1400s or early 1500s the eastern part of the south nave wall was widened slightly and faced with Tudor brick.  It is possible this was built to accommodate the stairs to the rood loft and the window placed here to give light to the rood screen. 

The nave is short and of ordinary field flintwork, part refaced in brick on the south side, with a chancel of similar proportions and width.  The entrance tower on the south side of the nave and a north aisle of equivalent size to the nave is in flint with brick dressings.  The chancel is of field masonry with a high proportion of Roman tile. The tower is of field flintwork with higher proportions of crag and septaria in both the nave and the tower.  Each of the tower belfry lights has been formed in a different way, and the upper part of the tower has been partially rebuilt in brick. The commandments were placed upon the north wall of the chancel in 1810.

The north aisle was added in the 19th century in similar vernacular style carried out by the Diocesan architect William Pattisson. The font, made in the 15th century, is eight sided and decorated originally with eight carved panels though only two remain, the rest having been badly damaged and mutilated together with the once decorated buttresses around its base. This was probably done in the 1640s during the period of the Commonwealth under Cromwell. On the outside of the church in the masonry of the south wall there are traces of a possibly earlier building dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.  During the 1900s, the tower was restored and a new altar added.  In 2000, a toilet with disabled access was added to the outer west wall.

The War Memorial to the east of the church is a particularly fine one because it is a reproduction of the old Preaching Crosses, which once adorned churchyards. At its summit St. Michael is portrayed with his sword and his balances for weighing souls. The memorial is of Clipsham stone and was erected in 1920 – the work of Messrs Clary & Wright of Ipswich, to the designs of W.D. Caroe, an architect of national repute.

The significance of the church (including its contents and churchyard) in terms of its special architectural and historical interest:

The earliest visible work is probably pre-10th century with the following elements having national heritage significance:

  1. The south tower entrance style
  2. The Colvin memorial (see comments below from the Suffolk Churches Website)

Of local interest is the 18th century tomb in the churchyard in York Stone dated 1728.

Pevsner’s reference identifies the following:

“Unbuttressed S Tower. The nave S side is of early C16 brick. The forms of the chancel seem of c.1300: the N aisle is of 1851. Font octagonal. Against the stem, fours lions; defaced. Against the bowl only 1 lion and 1 angel are left. Pulpit C17; simple.”

The tower is one of Suffolk’s 22 porch towers and is set on the south side rather than at the west end. Other similar arrangements in the locality include Playford, Culpho and Grundisburgh. Entering the porch we notice the tremendous thickness of the tower wall, making the interior surprisingly small. A plaque on the west wall commemorates Walter Rutherford Goodman (died 1976) who worked hard to restore the tower in 1975. 

On the east wall is a framed extract from the will of Elizabeth Heard (proved in 1875) leaving 100 pounds, the interest from which was to keep the family grave near the top of the churchyard in repair, the rest to be distributed in coal to the poor of the parish, who were to be selected by the rector and the churchwardens. Her husband farmed in the parish and had been churchwarden here.

Nearby is a record of the inscriptions on the bells, which hung in the tower in 1750:

Sancta Maria ora pro nobis

O Mari Barbra pro me Deum exora 3. John Darbie made me 1677, John Rose.

Today only 1 and 3 remain; the former a pre reformation bell and the latter cast in Ipswich.

Here is a prize example of “small (and simple) is beautiful, because this little church is so humble and unpretentious; there is little here of splendour and magnificence for which so many of our Suffolk churches are famous. The building is homely and rustic, yet so very attractive; it is small and squat, yet it is a sturdy edifice, which sits in its sloping churchyard as if clamped upon the earth forever.”

Curtains Panels from the Coronation of George VI

The East Wall behind the sanctuary is furnished with two curtain panels used at the coronation of George VI on 12th May 1937. For more info see our special page on these remarkable brocatelle curtains!

From the Suffolk Churches Website:

You don't have to head far out of Ipswich into the wooded hills north-east of the town to find yourself in pleasingly remote and self-contained villages in the valley of the pretty River Fynn. We are not far from the monotonous suburbia of Kesgrave, but the woods close it off, and once you cross the railway line this is a quintessentially rural setting. The pretty church sits on a hillside above the village street and an avenue of limes leads up to one of those south-west towers which are common in the villages around Ipswich.

There is not a great deal to tell you about All Saints. It is not particularly significant in terms of history and architecture, but anyone who has been there will not forget it easily as it is a charming and dignified building which underwent a quietly successful restoration under the eye of William Pattisson in 1851. You step beneath the tower into a plain and simple little country church. The nave is small but light, and the north aisle creates a sense of space and squareness. When David Davy came here in the early 19th Century he found a large stove in the middle of the nave. He also found the pulpit at the back of the church, and the box pews of the time arranged so that they faced it. This was a common arrangement in the preaching houses of the post-Reformation English church, and is similarly documented at Wickhambrook, and at Bramford where the pulpit was in the middle of the south aisle. It was an attempt to break the link between the eastward focus on the altar, and the Catholic sacraments. Of course, the Victorians were to restore this link almost everywhere. But a tantalising glimpse into this earlier liturgical life is given by a surviving bequest of 1513, when one Robert Lawnsweyn left money to paint and gild Our Lady on S side of church according to the previous painting and gilding of the tabernacle.

The font is a typical East Anglian example of the 15th Century of which hundreds survive, but this one is very battered. The 1899 east window, depicting the Crucifixion flanked by Christ at Gethsemane and the Resurrection, was designed by the glass artist AL Moore for Powell & Sons. Otherwise the nave and aisle are filled with natural light from clear windows. In such a quiet spot it is perhaps unusual to find a memorial to the noted 19th Century Anglo-Indian Colvin family, but the merchant James Colvin of the East India Company bought the Grove Estate in Little Bealings on his return from Burma in the 1840s. The most famous of the Colvins remembered here is John Russell Colvin who was Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, and whose death and burial are still a source of controversy. Holed up in the Red Fort at Agra during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, he died of cholera and was buried within the palace on the site of the Peacock Throne, where his tomb remains to this day. His younger brother Edward who also died during the Mutiny is remembered on the memorial here below him. The great east window at Soham in Cambridgeshire also remembers the Colvin family.

On a sunny day it is pleasant to wander around the steep churchyard. The war memorial was designed by WD Caroe and features the figure of St Michael at the top. There's a fair chance you'll find hikers sitting on the bench outside of the south porch, eating their sandwiches in the sunshine and gazing out across the Fynn valley. It seems a fitting thing to happen in this quiet and hospitable place.


The Kneelers

 The kneelers are of special note and a pamphlet was created covering their background, design, meaning, and all those involved.