At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Little Bradley

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Little Bradley

Little Bradley (2011) Little Bradley

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    All Saints is one of the most westerly of East Anglia's round-towered churches, and the setting is a little unusual. A narrow lane runs off of the Newmarket to Haverhill road, and the village, such as it is, is made up of cottages that formerly housed workers on the Bradley Hall estate. The church sits across a bridge on the way to the Hall beyond which the lane peters out. It must easily get cut off in heavy snow.

The church itself is also unusual, at least for East Anglia, because the fabric of the nave and the western part of the chancel appears to be Anglo-Saxon in origin, and not rebuilt by later wealth. The tower is clearly not that old, and the ornate octagonal bell stage came about as a result of a bequest of 1455. James Bettley in the revised Buildings of England volume for West Suffolk notes the view of round tower churches expert Stephen Hart that the entire tower was probably rebuilt at this time. The crispness of the exterior today is down to William Fawcett's restoration of 1879 which rebuilt the roofs and provided the porch as well as refurnishing the inside. James Bettley also points out the earthworks east of the church, which taken together with the age of the nave, the proximity of the Hall and the separation from the main road points to a settlement which is organised pretty much as it would have been a thousand years ago.

You step into an intimate interior which opens up towards the east beyond the benches and the chancel arch. It is the chancel that provides most of the interest here, for it has shoe-horned into it one of the most interesting collections of memorials in this corner of Suffolk, some in brass, some mural, and some both. Most are to members of the Le Hunt family of the Hall and their relations. On the south wall, the 1550s memorial with kneeling figures is to Richard Le Hunt and his family. Husband, wife and children kneel in line, and all the figures but one have their head missing. This might as easily be wear and tear as much as vandalism I suppose, but in fact the surviving head was also removed and was found a few years ago in a field by a farmer while ploughing. This would suggest that the beheadings were intentional.

The two brass figures on the floor are John and Jane Le Hunt, the brass dating from 1605 and the couple standing in their finery above their inscription. John was a prominent Puritan in the years of the Elizabethan settlement, and he played a significant role in furthering protestant ambitions along with his brother-in law who kneels in a brass plaque with his family on the monument on the north side of the chancel. This is to John Daye, a prominent puritan printer of the second half of the 16th Century. At this time the new model Church of England was having some difficulty replacing the pre-Reformation church in the imaginations of the ordinary people. Part of the solution, in 1563, was the publication of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. This was a grisly narrative which outlined the evils of Catholicism by describing in detail the martyrdom of Protestants during the reign of Mary I (1553-58). The Protestant fundamentalist John Foxe compiled it, but John Daye was responsible for printing it. A copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs was placed in every parish church alongside the Bible, and was used to justify persecution of Catholics. Well into the 19th Century it was used by certain elements in the Church as a warning against decriminalising Catholicism.

Richard Le Hunt and family, 1558 Richard Le Hunt and family, 1558 John and Jane Le Hunt, 1605
heere lies the Daye that darkness could not blynd when popish fogges had over cast the sunne Thomas Soame

Daye's origins are obscure. He owned a house in Dunwich, and it has been assumed that this was his home town, though there is no evidence for this. He was briefly imprisoned for sedition during the reign of Mary, but achieved considerable business success after his release. He spent most of his life in London, and he is only remembered at Little Bradley because he married into the Le Hunt family. His brother-in-law John le Hunte helped pay for the final edition of the Book of Martyrs to be printed. He also seems to have undertaken some research work for Foxe. Daye may not even be buried here. He died in 1584 and his inscription reads::

Heere lies the Daye that darkness could not blynd
When popish fogges had over cast the sunne
Thus Daye the cruell night did leave behynd
To view and shew what bloudi Actes were donne
he set a FOX to wright how Martyrs runne
By death to lyfe. FOX venturd paynes & health
To give them light DAYE spent in print his wealth
But GOD with gayne retornd his wealth agayne
And gave to him as he gave to the poore.
Tow wyuves he had pertakers of his payne
Each wyfe twelve babes and each of them the more
Alys was the last encreaser, of his storore.
who mourning long for being left alone.
set upp this toombe her self turnd to a Stone.

As Mortlock observes, as if the opening pun wasn't bad enough, his second wife Alice's remarriage to a Mr Stone after his death was the cause of the last line.

In the 19th Century, when the protestant wing of the Church of England was under siege from the ritualists, it responded by placing memorials to the Marian martyrs and their champions. The most famous of course is in Oxford itself, where the Martyrs Memorial remembers Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley. Here at Little Bradley, the Company of Stationers installed a memorial window to Daye, with depictions of St Andrew, St Stephen and St Paul. These were powerful statements in the ferment of ideas of that time, when the Evangelical movement had also undergone a revival, the dynamics between the two wings played out nationally and in individual parishes.

One of the reasons we know so much about the state of the mid-19th Century English church is because of a snapshot taken on Sunday 30 March 1851. This was the day of the first, and so far only, National Census of Religious Worship. Each church of all denominations was required by law to make a census return detailing capacity, attendance on the day, average attendance over the previous three months, and so on. Most Anglican ministers did so, albeit warily, pointing out that their congregations were smaller than usual because of the storms that swept East Anglia that morning. Some enthusiastically talked up their numbers while others revealed depths of despondency. In some fairly large villages the parish churches were almost empty, and the incumbent was left to bemoan that the congregational chapel has enticed so many, or in other parishes everybody hereabouts is a Baptist.

There are some places where the incumbent refused to have anything to do with the census despite the legal obligation, and Little Bradley was one of them. It was left to the poor parish clerk to cobble together a return. He presented it to the registrar responsible for collating the census locally, a Mr Brown of Wickhambrook, who seems to have filled in the actual return himself. He added a caveat that the observations were obtained from a constant attendant, and claimed that the average number present each Sunday over the last three months at Little Bradley was two hundred. This was clearly nonsense, for the entire population of the parish was only thirty-five. In the mid-nineteenth century, any parish church which attracted as much as 30% of the parish population was doing quite well, especially in the Haverhill area with its enthusiasm for non-conformity. As TCB Timmins observes in his 1997 edition of the Suffolk Returns for the Census of Religious Worship, two hundred was probably the total attendance over the three months, and sixteen or seventeen was the correct figure (although even this would be considered high). Probably, the Little Bradley parish clerk didn't know what average meant.

The registrar added that he had presented the form to the Revd Charles Lamprell, who declined its acceptance or to render information. Lamprell had been rector since 1838, earning 234 a year for his efforts, which is about 50,000 in today's money. However, he was also perpetual curate of West Wickham in Cambridgeshire, and lived near there at Linton. He was one of the last of that generation of pluralists that the Oxford Movement helped sweep away. Rather curiously, the return observes that the parish had no school, claiming that there are no children to catechise, there being no poor living in the parish. Lamprell was the son of the estate owner, and so he could afford to rest on his laurels. Local historian Wendy Barnes informs me that, when Lamprell's father died, the sons disputed the will. The case absorbed so much of the wealth of the estate that it ended up being bought by one of the lawyers involved in the case. Wendy tells me that the estate workers had all been moved into cottages that were actually in the neighbouring parish of Little Thurlow, so there probably were no poor people in Little Bradley.

The font that the Little Bradley parishioners of that time and earlier brought their children to for baptism survives, although the rest of the nave has been entirely refurnished since the 1851 census. Decent glass by Heaton, Butler & Bayne is unobtrusive, given the narrowness of the church which, incidentally, suggests that the Wickhambrook registrar had never actually been here. Two hundred people crammed into this space would have cut off each others' breathing.


Simon Knott, September 2021

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looking east chancel
Sermon on the Mount (Heaton, Butler & Bayne, c1880) tower arch and doorway Little Bradley
Little Bradley Little Bradley Daye memorial window


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