Ride & Stride participants nominate a church or chapel to receive half their sponsor money, and the other half goes to the Trust. The Trust’s share will be given as grants to help communities restore or improve churches and chapels of all denominations.

Over 500 churches across Suffolk take part in the fundraising day which is organised by a vast team of volunteers and is supported by many non-church-goers.  Participants in Ride & Stride chose their own route around Suffolk’s churches, visiting as many or as few as they wish. For the fourth year, Ride & Stride will be joined by Pedal & Drive. Vintage and classic cars set off from selected venues in Suffolk to enjoy a given route around selected churches whilst competing in a quiz and photo competition.

More details about Ride & Stride and Pedal & Drive are on their tabs above.

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 “… 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 (

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

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. and

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:

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

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


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

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:

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.

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.

Just under £200,000 raised in a day!

Photo by Paul Paige


Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride annual fundraising event for Suffolk’s church buildings, held on Saturday 11th September, has topped the previous year’s total once again. 

Suffolk Historic Churches Trust are pleased to announce that, with the counting nearly complete, just short of £200,000 has been raised by the hundreds of cyclists, walkers, vintage & classic car enthusiasts and church volunteers who took part in the annual  ‘Suffolk Churches Day’ events on September 11th 2021. 

Ride & Stride participants nominate a church or chapel to receive half their sponsor money, and the other half goes to the Trust. The Trust’s share will be given as grants to help communities restore or improve churches and chapels of all denominations.

Over 500 churches across Suffolk take part in the fundraising day which is organised by a vast team of volunteers and is supported by many non-church-goers. 

“Riders and walkers for the Trust surprised us again with another bumper event, raising even more than last year,” said Patrick Grieve, Chairman, Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride.. “Many thanks to all our loyal and energetic participants, dedicated supporters and generous sponsors. Suffolk raises more for the event than any other county in the kingdom.”

Participants in Ride and Stride chose their own route around Suffolk’s churches, visiting as many or as few as they wished. For the third year, Ride and Stride was joined by Pedal & Drive, its sister event. Over 100 vintage and classic cars, set off from various points in Suffolk to enjoy a given route around five churches, whilst competing in a quiz and photo competition. The Trust is pleased to announce that the drivers raised over £15,000 towards the total. 

“The churches and chapels of Suffolk will be so grateful for the efforts of all those who biked, walked or drove their vintage or classic car to raise money that will go towards their upkeep. Raising £200,000 in one day is a huge achievement!” said Geoffrey Probert, Trust Chairman. 

Photo by Carol Challacombe

In 2022 Suffolk Churches Ride and Stride, and Pedal & Drive, will be held on Saturday 10th September.