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 south doorway north doorway

   
   
St Andrew   One of the reasons we know so much about the mid-ninteenth 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 was required by law to make a return detailing capacity, attendance 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; others revealed depths of despondency, where, in fairly large villages, the parish churches were almost empty, because 'the congregational chapel has enticed so many' and 'everybody hereabouts is a Baptist'.

There are some places where the Anglican minister refused to have anything to do with the survey, Little Bradley being one of them, and 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 - however, in this case Mr Brown of Wickhambrook seems to have filled in the actual return himself. He tells us that the 'observations were obtained from a constant attendant', and unable to specify attendance on census day he says the average number present over three months was 200.

This is clearly nonsense; the entire population of the parish was only 35. In the mid-nineteenth century, any parish church which attracted 20% of the parish population was doing well, especially in the Haverhill area with its enthusiasm for non-conformity. As TCB Timmins observes in his 1997 edition of the Suffolk returns, 200 was probably the total attendance over the three months, and 16 or 17 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 adds 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 - about 46,000 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; 'there are no children to catechise, there being no poor living in the parish'. In fact, Lamprell was son of the estate owner, and so 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.

All Saints is one of the most westerly of East Anglia's round-towered churches. You approach it down a narrow lane from the Haverhill to Newmarket road. It is pretty enough, with a 15th century bell stage surmounting its Norman tower. Looking at the chancel, Mortlock got excited by the clear evidence of enthusiastic building work in the late Saxon and early Norman periods. That so much has survived is unusual. The narrowness of the church is a tribute to its antiquity. One assumes the Wickhambrook registrar had never been here; two hundred people would have cut off each others' breathing.

All Saints is little-known compared with some other Suffolk churches, but the interior is of uncommon interest, having no less than five significant and interesting brasses. The best is on the floor of the chancel, to John and Jane le Hunte, and another is the heavily graffitied one of two kneeling members of the Underhill family facing each other - but the inscriptions are lost to us. Opposite is a fascinating scene of Thomas and Elizabeth Soame and their family, all looking very early 17th century.

But the most famous one is set in the north side of the sanctuary wall. It is to John Daye, a puritan printer of the second half of the 16th century. At this time, the new model Church of England was having considerable difficulty convincing the people that the old ways were bad. Part of the solution, in 1563, was a book commonly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. This is a grisly narrative, which outlines the evils of Catholicism by describing in detail the martyrdom of protestants during the reign of Mary I (1553-58). The fact that those who opposed the government line were slaughtered under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I as well was beside the point - most of those martyrs had been Catholics.

The fundamentalist John Foxe compiled it, but John Daye of Little Bradley was responsible for printing it. A copy of the Book of Martyrs was placed in every parish church alongside a Bible, and used to justify persecution of Catholics. Well into the 19th century, it was used by the Church as a warning against decriminalising Catholicism. Even today, you will find extracts from it on right-wing fundamentalist protestant websites.

Daye was born in Dunwich, but died in Little Bradley in 1584. His brass, which is also to his wife, begins heere lies the Daye that darkness could not blynd when popish fogges had over cast the sunne. As Mortlock observes, as if that pun wasn't bad enough, his wife's remarriage to a Mr Stone after his death causes her part of the epitaph to recall that she mourning long for being left alone set up this toombe, her self turned to a stone.

In the 19th century, when the protestant wing of the Church of England was under siege from the ritualists, it responded in a knee-jerk fashion by putting up 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 mawkish images of St Andrew, St Stephen and St Paul. In rather better taste is a pretty window illustrating the story of the Prodigal Son, which I liked a lot.

Incidentally, you might wonder at such a tiny little outpost having so many brasses. I know I did. Was it some enthusiastic 18th century collector, or a 19th century Vicar who inherited them from restorations elsewhere? In fact, they are all in situ, being well-documented local people all linked by marriage. Even more than that, Daye was brother-in-law to John le Hunte, and it was le Hunte who 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.

Beside the window is a fine monument to John's father, Richard, who died in 1540. The family kneel in line, and rather overpower the rest of the chancel. All the figures but one have had their heads knocked off, which might illustrate vandalism of any age, I suppose, but may have something to do with the fact that this memorial appeared on the very cusp of the Reformation, and vandals of either side might have had cause to be offended by le Hunte, depending on whether he had professed his son's theology or not. Wendy tells me that the surviving head had also been removed, but was found a few years ago in a field by a farmer while ploughing.

  beheaded
   

Simon Knott, December 2011

Daye memorial window looking east font beheaded
Prodigal Son suffer little children adoration cross John and Jane le Hunt
Thomas Soame Christ before Pilate Daye memorial window heere lies the Daye that darkness could not blynd when popish fogges had over cast the sunne

 

 

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