At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Botolph, Culpho

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Culpho

Culpho Culpho
Culpho Culpho

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    This pretty little church sits in the meandering lanes to the north-east of Ipswich, not particularly remote, but seeming so in this rolling, high-hedged area. As often in the Ipswich area, the tower is set on the south side forming a porch, but being truncated and wearing a red cap gives it a sense of the exotic, especially when seen a sunny day from a distance, a splash of terracotta among the rich greens. The name Culpho appears to mean 'Cuwulf's hill', Cuwulf being the name of a Saxon leader and Hoo, Hoe or Ho being a fairly common placename ending in East Anglia, the churches often set on a rise like this one.

The body of the nave appears to be substantially contemporary with the tower, so at the start of the 14th Century but without aisles or clerestories. The chancel, though obviously rebuilt, seems conventional enough from outside, but it creates a striking juxtaposition from within as we will see. For many years this church was kept locked, but on my most recent visit in September 2021 I found it open, and judging by the visitors book it is usually open daily.

You step under the tower into the nave and the immediate impression is of light and simplicity, an early 21st Century restoration with modern furnishings giving the church a character quite of its own. The chancel arch is narrow and pointed, and rather hard to date unless you know that the east end of the church had been rebuilt at the start of the 17th Century, and then the modern chancel came as a complete rebuilding of the 1880s at the expense of Robert Gurdon, first Baron Cranworth. Gurdon himself lived at Letton Hall in Norfolk, and the nearby parish church of Cranworth there is full of Gurdon memorials. He restored St Botolph for the workers on his estates here, - as his memorial observes, he was always gracious and kind to all his tenants - and this church was intended for the poor of what was then a remote and intensely rural parish.

As insignificant as this little parish is, Culpho has one memorable claim to fame. It was identified by Arthur Mee as one of Suffolk's two 'Thankful Parishes', for which there was no record of them losing any of their young men to the horrors of the First World War. Of the sixteen thousand-odd English parishes that sent their boys off to fight, fewer than fifty got them all back home again safely.

   

Simon Knott, October 2021

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looking east chancel looking west
font looking west blocked north doorway creed corner
thankfulness erected by his Culpho tenants

 
               
                 

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