St Peter, Claydon
www.suffolkchurches.co.uk - a journey through the churches of Suffolk
Claydon is a
large village on the outskirts of Ipswich. Its medieval
parish church was declared redundant in 1977. This was a
time when a number of churches were made redundant with a
speculative view to a sale. It was assumed that planning
permission for conversion to a house would be easily
obtained. Often, these sales failed to materialise, but
the Diocese refused to allow local trusts or charities to
take their care on for no financial return. Claydon was
one of these, and the writer Sam Mortlock quotes from the
Redundant Churches Fund report for 1987: Within sight
of new housing and burgeoning prosperity the diocese left
this historic church to rot for eleven years while
attempts to find an alternative use came to nothing. It
is one of the most conspicuous cases of neglect we have
St Peter, Claydon, is one of the great forgotten 19th century rebuildings. In style and substance it looks the work of an amateur Pugin, which is pretty much the truth.
The major rebuilding here was by worthy enthusiast R.M. Phipson, the diocesan architect, under Drury's direction, for the Drury family also presented to the living. This was not unusual, of course; many landed families held the patronage of their local church, and often presented a younger son to it. But by the second half of the 19th century, it was becoming less common, as younger sons preferred the opportunities for advancement out in the Empire. It survived only where the family embraced evangelical or Tractarian ideals; for them, the nature of the priesthood had a somewhat higher status.
Phipson built a massive pair of transepts across the western half of the former chancel, leaving a great cruciform church with a small chancel. Although this is demonstrably the work of Victorians, there are a number of earlier survivals visible externally, including long and short work at the two western corners of the nave. This is usually indicative of Saxon work, although it is difficult to say how much of this is genuine, and how much Drury and Phipson's sleight of hand.
Drury's great secular passion was carving. He produced much work here in wood and stone; the pulpit is his, as are many of the little details on roof and walls. The pulpit is an extraordinary thing, a bubbling, lacy extravaganza, with niches to the two front corners. These are currently filled with early 20th century images of St John and the Blessed Virgin, taken from a rood group, although whether Drury ever filled the niches with anything is unclear.
The rest of the interior carving, by the great Henry Ringham, was under Drury's direction. This work is an extremely early ritualist makeover, dating from the 1850s. Newman had crossed the Tiber barely 5 years before, and the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus of the reredos must have caused a few racing pulses. The interior is all Drury's design, including the beautiful east window with its pseudo-medieval roundels, and the whole thing is an extraordinary memorial to the man.
suffered greatly during the years or abandonment - for
example, of the large four evangelist carvings under the
crossing, only St Mark survives, and the stained glass,
especially that in the transepts by Albert Moore, is
still peppered with holes from stones thrown by the
descendants of those who had stoned Drury himself a
century before. The marble mensa stone, with its
consecration crosses, was brought here from the similarly
early ritualist church at Shipmeadow, when that was
declared redundant a few years before Claydon. Several
features were removed from the church during the course
of the 20th century, including the rood screen that Drury
had made to go under the crossing, and a large,
magnificent war memorial depicting the Madonna and Child
by Henry Moore, given to Claydon in 1948 and now to be
found on the other side of the village at Barham. I wonder what Drury would have
thought of it.
Simon Knott, 2000, updated 2007
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