At the sign of the Barking lion...

Holy Trinity, Bungay

At the sign of the Barking lion... - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


Click on an image to enlarge it:

The south aisle.

here the fire was stayed.

Gorgeous cherub in the sanctuary

The churches of Suffolk

The churches of Ipswich

The churches of Lowestoft

The churches of Bury St Edmunds

The churches of Felixstowe

The churches of the Saints


Full of urban confidence - Bungay Holy Trinity.

My Dad told me the other week that he checks out my site when he has a quiet moment at work. It had never occured to me that he might be interested, so if you're reading this Dad, Hi! and thanks.

Anyway, Bungay is one of East Anglia's loveliest small towns, the non-identical twin of Beccles, six miles down the valley. It actually shares much of its character with Norfolk towns like Wymondham, but don't tell anyone in Bungay this. Like all inhabitants of border towns, Bungay people are militant Suffolkers, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the two northern suburbs of Earsham and Ditchingham are (whisper it) in Norfolk.

One of the delights of Bungay is the main shopping street. On one side, old fashioned stores, pubs, hotels. On the other, three churches, two of them remarkable. The one that isn't remarkable is this one, Holy Trinity, but to be fair it is still a grand building, instantly likeable, full of urban confidence. Bungay and Sudbury were the only medieval Suffolk towns outside of Bury and Ipswich to be divided into parishes.

I said elsewhere on this site that St Peter, Gunton, is the only urban round-towered church in Suffolk, sitting as it does within the Lowestoft conurbation. Technically, I suppose, Bungay is too small to be considered urban, but Holy Trinity feels like a civic church, perhaps as a consequence of its considerable 19th century restoration.

From the High Street, you walk through the graveyard of St Mary, across the road, into that of Holy Trinity. The round tower greets you here, and so does the castellated porch, very unSuffolk, as is the adjacent stair turret, also castellated. The tower top was rebuilt in the 18th century, but the shields that you see are apparently medieval, moved up there at the time.

One thing you might miss inside the porch unless you look for it is a small plaque low down on the door. It says Here the Fire was Stayed 1688, and commemorates the great Bungay fire, which gutted and calcified St Mary. Apparently, the door bore the scorch marks until it was replaced in the late 19th century.

You step into a clinically neat interior. The chancel was rebuilt in the 1920s, and the whole inside has a feel of the period. There is a curiosity or two; there is one of Suffolk's few 18th century fonts, not too dissimilar from the one across the road at St Mary. There's another at far off Bawdsey.

The pulpit is a famous example of mid-16th century work, during the ferment of the Elizabethan Reformation. A great delight just to the east of it is the monument to Thomas and Catherine Wilson by Thomas Scheemakers, which features a gorgeous cherub. The church also has a couple of pre-Reformation brasses - nothing spectacular, but one is to a former Prioress of the Priory of God and the Holy Cross over the way, the ruins of which survive in the graveyard of St Mary. There are also a couple of apparent image niches in the south aisle arcade.

Like all good civic churches, Holy Trinity seems to be kept open, an oasis of peace in a busy little place. Holy Trinity is not charming, but has a peaceful elegance about it that will calm the racing heart; a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc perhaps, in contrast to the exotic cocktail of St Edmund around the corner.


Bungay from the top of Mettingham hill. Can you spot all three churches?



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