At the sign of the Barking lion...

St John the Baptist, Campsea Ashe

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Campsea Ashe

Campsea Ash lychgate, 1937 Campsea Ashe

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          Campsea Ashe is a village that many people may have passed through without realising it, for the Ipswich to Lowestoft railway line has a stop here, although the station is named for the town of Wickham Market, a mile and a half away. The church sits just on the other side of the railway bridge from the station, and because of this it is a church I have visited many times either at the start or the end of a bike ride. I have always found it open. As you might expect, the parish name has a number of variations in its spelling with Campsey Ash also being popular.

Village churches in this part of Suffolk are typically long and tunnel-like, and this is accentuated at Campsea Ashe by the slenderness of the tall tower which Simon Cotton found referred to in a bequest of 1432 when William Hore, chaplain, gave a noble towards it. The nave seems to have been completed by 1469 when William Blaxhale left 6 marks to the church, half to the new missal and half to the new candlebeam. This was clearly not enough, for John Jacobb in 1479 left half a noble towards the fabric of the 'candilbeem'. At the turn of the 16th Century there were bequests towards a covering for the font and the painting of the font.

There was a major restoration here at the unusual date of the 1780s which James Bettley in the revised Buildings of England credits to the enthusiastic and antiquarian-minded rector Samuel Kilderbee. JP St Aubyn came along in the 1860s, refacing much of the church in renewed flint. The tunnel-like feel is apparent inside too, although the nave and chancel are not continuous under one roof as is often found in this area. The interior is pretty much all St Aubyn's, two older survivals being a reset 15th Century heraldic shield in glass and a canopied early 16th Century brass to a priest, Alexander Inglisshe. Everything is neat and well-cared for, a pleasing space lit by some decent late 19th and early 20th Century glass, most of it by Powell & Sons. The best of their work here is glass on the south side of the nave by Henry Holiday in the 1880s depicting Faith with her cross, and Hope with her anchor. The light colours are jewel-like in this setting.

Faith and Hope Faith by Henry Holiday, 1882 Hope by Henry Holiday, 1882 Faith and Hope by Henry Holiday, 1882

The east window is also by Powell & Sons in 1912, depicting the risen Christ in Majesty, with six saints at his feet. The glass is a memorial to the Lowther family. The left hand three are Saint John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Peter. On the right is St Hilda, who represents Yorkshire where William Lowther's wife was born, St Edmund for Suffolk, and St Oswald for Cumberland where the Lowther family seat is.

The Lowthers have several memorials here, the most curious being one in an apparently 18th Century style which dates from the early 1950s. The grandest memorial here is to Frederic Sheppard, who died at the Battle of Badajoz in 1812. His army days took him from the Siege of Copenhagen to Portugal, and then to the retreat from Salamanca; he carried the King's colours at the memorable Battle of Corunna, took part in the expedition to Zealand where he beheld the fall of Flushing, and then fought at Gibraltar and Cueta on either side of the Mediterranean. He finally ran out of luck when he received a musquet ball thro' his thigh, of which wound to the universal regret of his regiment he died six days after... and his remains were honourably interred on the ramparts where he so gloriously fell. Remarkably, given that he had a distinguished career, he was just 22 years old.

Not far from the busy Sheppard lies Emily Mair, the devoted nurse and friend of the family of Lord Rendlesham. She died in 1895, and the carving on her memorial is a sweet piece of late Victorian sentiment. The inscription, not unnaturally, is far too gallant to mention her age.


Simon Knott, December 2020

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looking east sanctuary looking west
tracery font devoted nurse and friend heraldic shield (15th Century)
St John the Baptist, Blessed Virgin and St Peter (Powell & Sons, 1912) Christ in Majesty (Powell & Sons, 1912) St Hilda, St Edmund, St Oswald (Powell & Sons, 1912)
agnus dei Christ in Majesty with Saints and Angels (Powell & Sons, 1912) Presentation in the Temple (Powell & Sons) pelican in her piety
Lowther Campsea Ash "...a musquet ball thro' his thigh..." he received a musquet ball thro' his thigh, of which wound to the universal regret of his regiment he died six days after
his manners were mild and conciliating, his principles loyal and steady by his afflicted widow 'killed in action near Rue de Bois' - culn brass by Gawthorp & Sons

Campsea Ash GAL 1858

frosted and lichened skull (18th Century)


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