News and Events

Photo competition winners announced.

Striders meeting up at Sapiston (by Tessa Wise)

For the second year, the photo competition for those taking part in Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride has resulted in some excellent photos of our wonderful churches and those taking part on the day. 

Our independent judge really enjoyed looking at all the entries and wanted to pass on her congratulations. She said she has now discovered some churches she hasn’t yet visited… but will do soon. 

The winners are Tessa Wise, for her lovely set of six photos that ideally portrayed the required categories (Entrance door of a church or chapel, a memorial plate, plaque or gravestone, a non-conformist church, a church window, a free choice…and a selfie ). She receives a £75 book token as her prize.

“It was a great day out exploring Suffolk churches and meeting fellow participants and volunteers. We walked 14 miles, visited 9 churches and still had the energy to go to St Mary’s church, Ixworth for Hymns and Pimms at 6pm!” Tessa said.

The independent judge also chose the photo of a harvest church window at Langham, as her favourite from all the entries. Congratulations to Graham Hughes from Wetherden, who receives a £25 book token.

The prizes were provided by a supporter of Suffolk Historic Churches Trust who organise the fundraising day each year. Money raised is divided 50/50 with the participants chosen church and the Trust, which gives grants for the church restoration and improvement projects. 

The sister event, Pedal and Drive for veteran and classic cars also held a photo competition which was won by Catherine Hollywood, and was taken at  Catherine won a bottle of champagne. 

Next year’s events will be held on Saturday 10 September. Details on

To see more of the photos look at Ride and Stride and Pedal and Drive pages of the website.

At St Nicholas Church, Denston (by Catherine Hollywood)

We did it!!

Photo by Paul Page.

Hundreds of churches opened across Suffolk on Saturday 11th September to welcome a thousand or so walkers and cyclists for the annual Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride Day, when sponsored participants could choose their route around the county. 113 veteran and classic cars also took part in the sister event, Pedal & Drive, leaving from fivedifferent country houses, along six assigned routes, visiting six churches, before assembling at Lavenham.

“ I was extremely pleased that the day went so well and, by the end, the sun was shining too. People have been very generous with their time, organising this big fundraising day,  and with their donations for Suffolk Historic Churches Trust,” said Trust Chairman, Geoffrey Probert, as he watched the cars arrive. “I spent the morning going to churches that the cars weren’t visiting and I saw lots of cyclists and walkers, and the volunteers signing people in were pleased with the number of visitors they had already had.”

This was the 40th annual sponsored cycling event, an idea that began in Suffolk before spreading across the country.  Last year the day raised £190,000 that was divided between the Trust, to be given in grants to restore and improve church buildings, with the remaining half of the sponsorship money given to the church chosen by each cyclist or walker. 

Next year’s events will be held on Saturday 10th September. 

(Look at the Ride and Stride and the Pedal & Drive pages for this years photo galleries. The photo competition for Ride and Stride closes on Weds 15th September. Winners to be announced. )

Ride and Stride Photography Competition 2021


Saturday 11 September 2021 9-5pm

Many people walking or cycling around Suffolk on Ride and Stride Day like to take photos so we have a competition. The lucky winner/s will be contacted and will also be announced on our website. Entry is free, but we ask that you are sponsored by family and friends on your journey. (We give grants to help preserve our beautiful church buildings.) There is a sponsor form on  or you can fundraise via

The prize is a £75 voucher, for the best set of photos, and £25 voucher for the best individual photo. (They may be taken by the same person of course!)  The prizes are  kindly sponsored by a supporter. 

The six photos to be taken on Ride and Stride Day 2021 will be of:

  1. The entrance door of a church or chapel
  2. A memorial plate, plaque or gravestone
  3. A non-conformist church (ie, not Church of England but Methodist, Baptist, Unitarian Meeting House, etc)
  4. A church window.
  5. A free choice… whatever you wish to mark about your day.
  6. A selfie of you celebrating outside a church when you complete your journey. (Cheers, waves and excitement are encouraged!) 

The submitted photos may be used for publicity for the Trust, encouraging others to support our work, and the photographer will be credited when any are used. 

Please take your six photos on Saturday 11th September, Ride and Stride Day, then email (by the closing date, 15.9.2021) to An independent judge will choose the winners. Please include:

Name :                                               email:                                     



Good luck!

2020 winners: The Britt family.

July Grants to churches

£38,000 has been awarded to churches applying to the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust this July.

St Peter and St Paul church, Clare (photo by Simon Knott,

At our July meeting the Grants Committee made awards to these churches and wish them all the best with their restorations and improvement projects.

St Peter & Paul, Clare

St Mary, Bacton

St Andrew, Rushmere St Andrew

St Andrew, Bredfield

St Mary, Langham

St Mary, Horham

St John, Needham Market

St Peter, Wenhaston

SS Peter & Mary, Stowmarket

St Mary, Badwell Ash

The Grants Committee welcome applications from Suffolk churches, chapels and meeting halls. See the Grants section of this website. Meetings are held quarterly.

Wenhaston Church ( Simon Knott,

Yalda Davis and her cello – 500th church!

Yalda is now about to reach her 500th church!

YALDA DAVIS and her cello

In April 2017, I started a project to play my cello in all of Suffolk’s 500 medieval churches. The story began, really, with childhood bike rides punctuated by stops at village churches. Then it continued with my first ever concert in a Suffolk church at the age of 13, in Wattisham. When I moved to Suffolk in 2011, I started to explore the county more widely, wanting to get to know it intimately and discover all the hidden corners that no one will ever direct you to. My astonishment at the beauty and uniqueness of all the churches I stopped to visit on a journey to the coast was the next stage… accompanied by the acquisition of so many animals that I knew I would have to find new adventures close to home instead of far away. The addition of the cello was the last, entirely personal, piece of the puzzle to fall into place.

When I discovered just how many churches there are in Suffolk, I nearly abandoned the idea on the spot. It took another six weeks of mulling it over and chatting with friends to get past the feeling that it was simply too crazy to contemplate… 

I will finish my project with a concert in St Bartholomew’s Church, Orford, on 4th September 2021 at 4pm, which will be my very last Suffolk church. 

As well as raising money for individual village churches by giving concerts, I have been fundraising through Justgiving for three charities involved in the upkeep of Suffolk’s churches. These are:

I would love to reach my target of raising £1000 for each of these three charities by the time my project finishes. If you value Suffolk’s churches and have enjoyed my blog or concerts over the last three years, please do consider making a donation.


Saturday 4th September, 4pm. Concert in Orford church. My 500th Suffolk church (in theory)! Definitely my last in any case. Programme to include the Schubert String Quintet in C major with Florence Cooke and Rosie Lowdell (violins), Kurosh Davis (viola) and Sheida and Yalda Davis (cellos). 

Tickets are now available (until 10pm on 3 September) for £10-£20 on or Jacki Maslin on 01394 450799

We have launched Ride and Stride and Pedal & Drive 2021

Monday 28th June 2021, broadcaster and Suffolk resident Bill Turnbull, a vintage car, (a 1925 12/50 Alvis, called Belinda), and Suffolk Historic Churches Trust walkers and cyclists, launched this year’s Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride and Pedal and Drive event, which will be held in September. 

Held at St John the Baptist Church, Badingham, the launch was held to announce that full details are now available for the several thousand cyclists and walkers of all ages, (and vintage and classic cars drivers) who will take part in the annual fundraising event on Saturday 11th September 2021.   

Against all the odds, the day-long event was held in September 2020 and the sponsorship money raised was the highest for ten years at £190,000

Broadcaster Bill Turnbull said, 

“This is a very good cause, and it combines two of the things that Suffolk should be proud of – countryside that people can cycle around and terrific churches. Churches need the help and it’s a fun way to raise funds.  I’m not in the position to cycle at the moment but, as soon as I can, I’m going to get on a bike and do it myself. It gets people out in the fresh air and, fingers crossed, it will be a lovely day ..and people will learn a lot too.”

Cyclists and walkers get sponsored on their journey around some of Suffolk’s churches, choosing their own route, long or short. The money they raise help save this wonderful part of our history, with half going to the Trust to give out as grants for church buildings, and half to the cyclists/walkers chosen church. Hundreds of churches will be open to welcome participants on Saturday 11th September.

Also, on the same day, a vintage and classic car rally is held with cars travelling a provided route, around a selection of churches. 

Christopher Banham created a lot of interest in Badingham, when he brought  his 1925, 12/50 Alvis called ‘Belinda’, to the launch. It was bought by his family in 1933 for £ 33. The launch was held at St John the Baptist church, as they have a huge restoration project underway, and have received a grant towards the cost, from Suffolk Historic Churches Trust. 

Sponsor forms and full details for Ride and Stride and Pedal and Drive are now available in Suffolk churches and from the Trust website. Donations and sponsorship can also be collected via Just Giving.

After the unexpected success of last year, the challenge this year is to repeat or better it. Our churches and chapels need the funds, and after lockdown we all need the fresh air and exercise,” said Patrick Grieve, the Chairman of Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride.

The annual ride, began in Suffolk in 1982 but has now spread across England, appeals to families, local history lovers, keen cyclists and walkers, church supporters and those who just enjoy an annual trip around the villages and towns of Suffolk. 

Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House… English Heritage Press Release

The restored Unitarian Meeting House, Friars St. Ipswich, Suffolk.View from north. Image copyright Patricia Payne/Historic England

Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House saved for future generations

  • Repair and restoration work to the Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House is complete thanks to over £600,000 grant funding from Historic England, tireless fundraising by volunteers and the heritage skills of local craftspeople
  • The Grade I listed building is now protected for future generations and will be removed from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register
  • Local visitors can see the finished restoration work in covid-compliant open hours on Sunday 16 and Sunday 30 May .

Volunteers and the congregation at the Unitarian Meeting House in Ipswich are looking forward to welcoming the local community once again following repair and restoration work to save the historic Grade I listed building.

The year-long restoration project was made possible by grant funding of £602,152 from Historic England and tireless fundraising efforts by volunteers and community members who raised £144,800 in funding.

Extensive structural repairs to the building were needed, including the re-covering of the entire roof, an overhaul of all drainage, and works to remove unsuitable and corroding steel repairs and rectify structural movement in the timber frame. Cracked composite cement render covering the exterior was replaced with a historically accurate lime render.

The Unitarian Meeting House was placed on the Heritage at Risk Register in 2018 after Trustees Property Manager Phil Chatfield completed a Structural Survey commissioned by the Trustees. Now it will be removed from the Register this year, following extensive restoration work designed by KLH Architects on the recommendations of the survey. 

Find out more and get involved

On Sunday 16 and Sunday 30 May (2-3pm) local visitors will be able to experience the newly restored building filled with music from its beautiful late 19th century organ. Covid-19 restrictions apply.

It is hoped that further easing of Covid-19 restrictions will enable services and events to resume in the Unitarian Meeting House. If you’d like to lend a hand in keeping this beautiful historic building alive for visitors to enjoy, a new Friends of the Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House Group is welcoming new supporters. To get involved visit or contact Tessa Forsdike (Secretary of Trustees) on 01473 728498 / 07980 641620.

Unitarian Meeting House, Friars St. Ipswich, Suffolk. Interior view from gallery. Image copyright Patricia Payne/Historic England

The Historic Unitarian Meeting House

The Unitarian Meeting House, situated on one of the oldest streets in Ipswich, is regarded as one of the finest surviving 18th century Dissenters’ meeting houses in the country.  It was opened for services in 1700 and has been used continuously for worship since then. 

English novelist Daniel Defoe waxed lyrical in 1722: “as large and as fine a building of that kind as most on this side of England, and the inside the best finished of any I have seen, London not excepted.”

The exterior is self-effacing, giving little clue to the classical grandeur of the historically complete interior.  The pulpit is an elaborately carved early 18th century construction with intricate and beautiful three-dimensional carving.

The congregation sit in original wooden box pews and there are special historic features such as wig pegs, a Dutch brass chandelier and a spy hole, used in times of persecution to check for any approaching persecutors. When the building was constructed, English Presbyterians were regarded with suspicion by most of the population and members had to ensure that they did nothing to unduly draw attention to the building or to themselves.

Unitarian Meeting House, Friars St. Ipswich, Suffolk.Interior view from south. Image copyright Patricia Payne/Historic England

NB: We are pleased to announce that the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust also gave grants towards the cost of the work at the Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House.

Latest grants awarded

The Grants Committee of Suffolk Historic Churches Trust has awarded grants totalling £32,000 this month.

The lucky churches are:

Kirton, St Mary and St Martin
Dalham, St Mary the Virgin
Newmarket, St Agnes
Market Weston, St Mary
Wattisfield, St Margaret

Brettenham, St Mary
Denham, St John the Baptist
Belstead, St Mary

St Mary’s, Belstead (with permission from Simon Knott.

Nayland, St James
Chevington, All Saints
Brent Eleigh, St Mary
Little Finborough, St Mary

Congratulations to all the churches and good luck with your building projects.

The next Grants committee will be held in July. For details of how to apply, go to the Grants section of this website.