At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Blyford

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Blyford

blyford (0) blyford (2) Norman south doorway
ploughman, 1849 speed the plow (1849)

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          Blyford church is perhaps overshadowed by the churches of its three more famous immediate neighbours neighbours at Blythburgh, Westhall and Wenhaston. But It is elegant and pleasing in its way, sitting at a sharp bend in the Halesworth to Blythburgh road, a familiar landmark. There's a decent pub across the road, the Queen's Head. The sign shows St Etheldreda, because her father, King Anna, was killed in the Battle of Blythburgh near here, and the church there had shrines to both Anna and Etheldreda before the Reformation.

You walk up to the church from the corner of the Wenhaston road, and just inside the gate there is a headstone to Samuel Croft, who died at the age of 21 in 1849. His headstone depicts a team of two draught horses leading a plough, an unusual thing to find. The path leads up to a strikingly grand south porch for such a small church. It could only be in Suffolk, its 15th Century flushwork guarding an austere Norman doorway as well as the Parish's roll of honour of those who fought in the First World War inscribed on a stone memorial. This flushwork is repeated on the tower. Pevsner felt the east window was evidence of a date of about 1300 for the chancel, although most of the windows and tracery in the church must have been renewed at least a century later. Simon Cotton recorded Richard Mekylfield's will of 1408 which directed that he should be buried in the chancel next to the grave of his father, and contributed 13s 4d (two nobles) to the new paving in that area of the chancel and 6s 8d (one noble) to the reparation of the bells, suggesting a date for when the parishioners were actively renewing their church.

The interior is neat and clean, bright and white with no coloured glass, a small, simple country church made serviceable for future generations by the Victorians and carefully looked after since. I recall on one occasion I stepped inside to find two disappointed ladies. "Do you know what has happened to the wall painting?" one of them asked. It took me a moment to work out what she meant - they thought they had found Wenhaston church, which lies less than a mile to the south, and where there is the famous doom painting, actually on a tympanum rather than the wall. I pointed them in the right direction, and they left me to enjoy the silence.

The WWI battlefield grave cross for Walter Evan Day is on the wall behind the pulpit. It was sent back to his family when the Empire War Graves Commission replaced it with a permanent memorial. He was a Captain in the Royal Engineers, and was the son of Richard Evan and Edith Emma Day, of Plaistow Lane, Bromley, Kent. His father Richard was the great nephew of Jeremy Day, a 19th Century rector here, and in 1910 Richard inherited Blyford Hall. Walter Day was 31 when he died and did not live in Blyford, which explains why he is not mentioned on the Blyford parish war memorial on the south wall of the nave or on the Roll of Honour in the porch. However, he has a memorial plaque headed by the badge of the Royal Engineers, which tells us that he served against the Turks on the Suez Canal and at Anzac. At Aldershot the following winter he trained the new 233rd Field Company, and as OC he took it out to France, at Easter 1916. He was killed in action at Armentieres on June 16th aged 31 and was buried in the Tancred Farm soldiers' cemetery.

Another memorial recalls with curious precision a local man killed in an earlier conflict. Edmund Freeman was born in this parish 10th November 1788, it begins, going on to tell us that he was killed in action with the French Frigates and a battery off Guadalope in the West Indies 19th December 1809 aged 21 years, 5 weeks and 4 days. Just up from it, William Croft's 1888 memorial records his bequest of 100 invested in consols, the interest of which was to be annually distributed on the feast of St Peter and St Thomas amongst the aged widows of the parish and in default then amongst the afflicted and deserving sick.

There is an elegant corner piscina in the sanctuary and a plain octagonal font at the west end, both probably contemporary with the building of the chancel and perhaps giving a date for the nave before it was elaborated. That's about it as far as medieval excitements go, but if Blyford church seems a quiet, ordinary place compared with its neighbours, then perhaps that's all the more reason to value its simplicity.

         

Simon Knott, December 2020

looking east looking east looking west
killed in action Men of Blyford served in the Great War blyford (5) Blyford All Saints Remember
Killed in action with the French Frigates and a battery off Guadalope aged 21 years, 5 weeks and 4 days to be annually distributed on the feast of St Peter and St Thomas amongst the aged widows of the parish and in default then amongst the afflicted and deserving sick (1888) He served against the Turks on the Suez Canal

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