News and Events

Friends of SHCT – Spring Field Day 2022

Dr Richard Hoggett, and the statue of St Edmund by Elizabeth Frink.

In order to have any understanding of the magnificence of the Benedictine Abbey that once dominated Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area, one requires a good imagination and a first class tutor.  As individuals we did allow our imaginations full rein on Saturday 21st May at our first post pandemic Field Day, but the scholarship was provided by Dr Richard Hoggett who led our morning session and breathed life into the meagre remains of this once great site.  

Dr. Hoggett is a freelance heritage consultant with a deep knowledge and understanding of archaeology who assisted with the production of a report into the significance of the Abbey in time for its millennial anniversary in 2020. There may not be a great deal to see but it is extraordinary how the story came to life with his skilful guidance.

There may have been an Anglo Saxon monastery on the site but it was in 1020 the foundations of the Benedictine Abbey were laid and from the remains it is obvious that Pilgrimage to this site to visit the Shrine of Edmund was anticipated, it was  in fact to become one of the foremost destinations for Pilgrims in Europe. Nearly every medieval King made the pilgrimage, Parliament met there, and it is claimed that here the Barons met on their way to Runnymede with Magna Carta. 

All that remains to show the quality of the building is the Norman Tower which is faced with dressed stone and gives a hint of just how large and magnificent would have been the Abbey Church.  Construction on that building started in 1080 and developed into one of the largest churches in western Christendom. The whole site was huge but it has been broken up over the intervening centuries so it is difficult to really appreciate its extent and the size and quality of the many buildings that existed. 

The Abbey was home to about 80 monks whose daily needs were well provided for but it was the Abbot who lived in a manner which befitted a haughty prelate who owned most of West Suffolk, and bowed to no authority on earth except that of the Pope and perhaps the King with whom all abbots maintained close ties.  Indeed Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s  sister was buried in the Abbey and was removed to St Mary’s at the time of the Dissolution.

Being both arrogant and greedy did not endear the Abbot and his team   to the local population indeed their authority was so tyrannical that there were at least 3 major riots when the Abbey precincts were breached and buildings damaged and it is Dr Hoggett’s contention that after the Dissolution the destruction of the Abbey was so comprehensive because it was carried out by a resentful populous delighted to be relieved of an overbearing lord. It is worth noting that the gateways into the Abbey Precincts were constructed as military defences complete with arrow slits!

As more than one person said to me “I shall never be able to walk through these ruins without remembering those turbulent times”. And of course the enigma of Edmund remains.  I hope he is somewhere within the precincts of the Abbey resting in peace.


In the afternoon we walked the short distance to a magnificent building which requires no imagination to appreciate its extraordinary beauty, for there is St Mary’s where Mary Tudor rests and medieval angels adorn the hammer beam roof of the nave  and guard this sacred space as they have done for at least 500 years.

Our guide for the afternoon was a long standing and valued supporter of the Trust, a noted local historian and church expert, Clive Paine ably assisted by his wife Christine.

Although St Mary’s was within the Abbey precincts it was financed by local people, not the Abbey although, the priest, appointed by the Abbot would have been responsible for the repair of the Chancel.  The church we see now evolved from about 1140 to the Mid C15th and was gradually embellished, stripped at the Reformation, and restored thereafter to its current beauty.


There is much to see and appreciate in this glorious building, but it was the details of the roofs which we had come to see.  Of course, one cannot appreciate the detail from the floor and even with binoculars it is difficult to see everything but Clive had done the hard work for us and we were to benefit from his research. 

In the nave it is a C15th single hammer beam with 11 pairs of life sized angels.  The first pair formed a Canopy of Honour over the Rood.  The remaining 10 pairs show a procession of honour of the Assumption as would have been seen on 15th August each year.  

We were able to appreciate the detail as Clive had pictures and thanks to the antics of an enthusiastic cleaner with some chimney brushes trying to dust the roof, one Angel lost a hand as it fell to the floor.  This is now housed in a display case so one can appreciate the detailed workmanship which, after all, the craftsmen thought no-one would ever view at close quarters!  Added to all this magnificent work there are over 400 carvings on the roof including saints, prophets, and angels.  Birkin Haward described them as “…..one of the most extensive and finest collection of 15th century woodcarvings in England”.


Then we moved to the Chancel with its wagon roof: brightly coloured and glorious.  Amongst other beautiful decorations there are 198 carved and coloured bosses.  Some of these are symmetrical and carvings include angels, bishops, a fox, three rabbits, owls, dogs, dragons, fish, humans, leaves and flowers: an amazing array.  The roof was restored in 1880 and 1968.


In the Sanctuary is the grave of Mary Tudor with its slightly unusual marble kerb on two sides added in 1904 when King Edward VII decided  it did not look regal enough. 

Finally we looked at the Chantry Chapel, of John Baret, a major benefactor of the church and who died in 1467.  He left precise instructions as to how his chantry was to be decorated most especially a roof by Henry Peyntour which has six decorated panels. Where the lozenge patterns intersect is a gold star at the centre of which is a small concave piece of glass which appear to twinkle like the stars in heaven.

 Part of the original decoration included tongues of fire made from lead.  Over the centuries these had deteriorated and were finally removed and their place taken by paint.  Some of the tongues are lodged with the V and A and Clive  was able to show us two of the original flames. The workmanship viewed at close quarters was quite moving. The roof was restored in 1968 by John Kursk and is deservedly considered to be one of the outstanding features of the church. 


We ran out of time well before we had examined all the treasures of this lovely church.  If you are in Bury and have some time to spare do go to St Mary’s you will not be disappointed and Clive’s excellent Guide Book will make sure you miss nothing.

We had an enthralling and exhausting day and had seen and heard much to make us think.  We  look forward to seeing you all at the Study Day in March next year.

Diana Hunt, Trustee 

Grants for five more Suffolk churches

The Grants Committee Meeting of the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust allocated a total of £20,750 to renovation and improvement schemes to churches in Suffolk.

The largest grant awarded, £10,000, went to St Stephen’s church in Higham, between Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.

St Stephens, Higham, photo by Simon Knott (http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk)

The village of Higham was part of the parish of Gazeley until 1861 when it became a separate benefice. A new round-towered church in the Neo-gothic style was built, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The church has a conical cap. The original clay tiles on the tower were replaced by cedar shingles which are now failing. The plan is to replace them with clay tiles. While the scaffolding is up it is intended to repair tower stone and flintwork and carry out some gutter repairs.

The total cost of the repair work is cost £84,959.

“The Trust is delighted to be able to support the youngest of the Suffolk round towers churches with the repair and retiling of its tower”, said John Devaux, Chairman of the Grants committee.

Grants also went to St Peter in Nowton, Our Lady Roman Catholic church, Stowmarket, St Mary’s in Brent Eleigh and St Peter’s church in Cransford.

The next Grants meeting is on 11 th July and details of how to apply https://shct.org.uk/grants/

The money given in grants is mainly raised by the Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride and Pedal and Drive Day. In 2022 this will be held on Saturday 10th September. https://shct.org.uk/ride-and-stride/ and https://shct.org.uk/pedal-drive-car-rally/

In 2021 over £200,000 was raised by sponsored participants. Half of their sponsor money goes to the church of their choice, and half to the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust.

Spring Field Day

Saturday 21st May 2020  Bury St. Edmunds    £10 person

Morning: Tour of: Abbey Ruins with Dr. Richard Hoggett FSA MCIfA

Afternoon: St. Mary’s Church with Clive Paine

The site of the Abbey of St Edmund has been a significant place on the regional, national and international stage since the 10th century and its story is intimately bound up with those of the royal martyr Edmund and the wider town of Bury St Edmunds. The year 2020 witnessed the millennial anniversary of the formal foundation of the abbey in AD 1020 and, following delays caused by Covid-19, this milestone is being celebrated during a series of events being held in and around Bury during the coming months. During this visit we will walk the ruins of the abbey with heritage consultant Dr Richard Hoggett, who has studied the abbey extensively, and explore why the site deserves its position as one of Suffolk’s most important historic sites.

We are invited to St. Mary’s Church to have our packed lunches.  Tea and coffee will be available and there are WC facilities.  After lunch Clive Paine would like to welcome us to his home church with an  introduction to its history and the significance of  its place adjacent to the Abbey precincts There will be time for us to  explore the building and Clive will be on hand to answer any questions.

We will meet at the Abbey Gate ready to start promptly at 10.30 and suggest the Ram Meadow Car Park.

For booking details email: shct@btconnect.com

To become a Friend of SHCT costs £15 (individual) £25 (joint). Email: shct@btconnect.com.

The Honourable Jill Ganzoni 1931-2022

It is with sadness that we record the death of Jill Ganzoni at the age of 91 years. But it is with deep gratitude we remember Jill’s lifelong commitment to the County in which she was born, lived and died. Without the  vision, influence and generosity back in 1973 of a small group in which Jill played a pivotal role, Suffolk Historic Trust would probably not have come into existence and certainly would not have been able to offer the support it does to the churches and chapels of Suffolk. 

A full appreciation of Jill’s life and work will be published in our Autumn Newsletter.

Jill’s funeral will be held at St. Mary’s Woodbridge on Thursday 12th May at 11.00am

YOUR CHURCH IN THE NEWS

St Mary’s Church, Kersey (Mary Luxmore-Styles)

The Flyer series of magazines are delivered free to homes in Ipswich, Kesgrave and Martlesham Woodbridge, Stowmarket and Felixstowe. They have kindly offered us a monthly column about the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, that also includes a featured church, chapel or meeting house that can be anywhere in Suffolk. 

If you would like yours included, please send 200-250 words about the church and any interesting features and two or three photos (inside and out) that you have the copyright to. 

Please send them to mail@rachelsloane.co.uk

They would also like us to include the times the church is open to visitors, disabled access, the postcode and details of where to park. 

In April it will be the Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House that is featured. Below is the March 2022 church, as an example….

March 2022 – Flyer magazines

Our featured church this week is St Mary’s church at Kersey, near Hadleigh, Chosen by one of our Trustees, Mary Luxmore-Styles:

“St Mary’s Kersey is a beautiful 12-14th Century church, standing on a hill on the edge of the quaint Tudor village of Kersey, with a water-splash at the bottom, as a tributary to the river Brett runs through. You can see St Mary’s lit up when you drive along the A1071 at night. It has been used by many people in the past (and present!) as a landmark to tell that you are nearly home! Significantly, it was used as a turning mark by RAF bombers in WW2 on their way back home after a raid.

St Mary’s is well worth a visit. The views from there are stunning. It is peaceful inside and out. It used to have a shrine there, which was destroyed during the 16th or 17th Century, but in March 2020 became the first church in Suffolk to have a shrine re-hallowed, when a beautiful modern shrine was installed to take the place of the one of old. You can write a prayer on a pebble and place it in the large elegant elliptical bowl.”

You can read more about Kersey church on Simons Knotts website: http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/kersey.htm

There is parking and disabled access to the church which is open 9-5pm and for services. It is on Cherry Hill. Kersey IP7 6EG.

Details of our latest Grant – for the Queens Platinum Jubilee

The Jubilee Window at All Saints church, Honington Church, Suffolk

How is your church marking the HM the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?  A tea party or special service is very good, but what about a longer lasting tribute that benefits the church and the community? 

The Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT) are delighted to announce they are awarding Jubilee Grants totalling £70,000, in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 and seek to benefit as many communities in Suffolk as possible.

The grants to churches, chapels and meeting houses, will not exceed £5,000 and will be expected to cover the entire, or bulk, of the costs of the project. They will be awarded for modest work not normally grant aided by the Trust so no structural work will be considered eligible for this project.

“The Suffolk Historic Churches Trust’s Jubilee Awards represent a wonderful opportunity for the Trust to help Suffolk churches, chapels and their communities celebrate HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in a significant and lasting manner,” said John Devaux, the SHCT Grants Committee Chairman.

Possible suggestions may include, but not exclusively, clocks, monuments, paintings, textiles, books, organs, stained glass and wooden objects and may possibly have a royal connection. The Grants Committee are happy to consider ideas as imaginative and inventive as possible. 

Perhaps an idea may be inspired by earlier Jubilee celebrations like the painting in St Marys Worlingworth, that celebrates the great feast in 1810 for King George III’s Golden Jubilee, the hour strike & quarter chimes added to the church clock in St Peter & St Paul Lavenham to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 or Pippa Blackhall’s imaginative stained glass at All Saints Honington that celebrates our own Queen Elizabeth’s 50th Jubilee.

Projects should benefit the whole community, church members and visitors to the church, have an enduring legacy, and be a fitting tribute to the Queen’s long reign. 

The closing date for applications is 31st December 2022 and the applications will be considered in February 2023.For more details and an application form : The closing date for applications is 31st December 2022 and the applications will be considered in February 2023.

https://shct.org.uk/jubilee-grants-application-for/

Exciting News…

JUBILEE GRANTS TO HONOUR THE QUEEN

How is your church marking the HM the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?  A tea party or special service is very good, but what about a longer lasting fitting tribute to the Queen’s long reign.

The Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT) are delighted to announce they are awarding Jubilee Grants totalling £70,000,

They are open to churches, chapels and meeting houses in Suffolk and will not exceed £5,000 and be awarded for imaginative and inventive projects not normally grant aided by the Trust. For more details and how to apply go to the Jubilee Grants Tab on the top menu of this website.

Queens Jubilee and Festival of Suffolk Torch Relay

Is the Suffolk Torch Relay coming to your area? Have you got a ‘local hero’ who could ride in the rickshaw and carry the torch?

The Festival of Suffolk is having a Torch Relay, carried on its journey in May by selected community torch bearers riding on a rickshaw. The symbolic torch will tour the county from Fri 13 May 22 to Wed 1 Jun 22 to herald the start of the Festival of Suffolk and the celebrations to mark HM the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. 

Suggested local heroes will be nominated by their community and it is hoped that all the towns and villages take the opportunity to celebrate and welcome the torch as it transits through their community. The torch begins its journey on the county boundary at Brandon and then passes through 250 towns and villages, a distance of over 550 miles before reaching its final destination at the Suffolk Show in Ipswich. 

Communities across Suffolk are invited to nominate worthy individuals to carry the torch. These could include local heroes or notable characters chosen in recognition for their service to the community. Most torch bearers will sit in the rickshaw and so it is suitable for all ages and all abilities.  Suggestions should be made to parish councils or via www.festivalofsuffolk.org

A small team comprising of the rickshaw driver and a support vehicle will escort the torch throughout its journey. The team will keep the torch on schedule and ensure the safe passage of the torch. Led by the Bury St Edmunds rickshaw team, the rickshaws of Framlingham and Stowmarket will also join in along the route.

There is an official route for Torch Relay https://www.festivalofsuffolk.org/all-events/torch-relay but it may be possible for the Torch to also go to other community events that are planned for the Jubilee celebrations and the Festival of Suffolk. Organisers should send the Festival of Suffolk team their requests via the website. 

The torch is currently being made in Suffolk  and the design is a closely guarded secret at the moment, but will have great symbolism for the county and the Queen. 

Further information on the Torch Relay and other Festival of Suffolk events can be found on the Festival of Suffolk website www.festivalofsuffolk.org

Update on the Suffolk Churches Day 2021 fundraising total….

An update! We have raised £205,000 from Ride and Stride and Pedal & Drive. An amazing total for one day… although we know lots of work from our wonderful volunteers takes place before the day.

Patrick Grieve, (right) planning his route in 2018.

The Chairman of Ride and Stride, Patrick Grieve has retired from the voluntary post after many years hard work, although he still remains a Trustee. What a way to go! Thank you Patrick for all you have done… and welcome to Simon Ronan who is taking over.