At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Ethelbert, Falkenham

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Falkenham west doorway crowned lion

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We are out near the end of the lanes of the Deben Peninsula, a far more remote spot than a map might suggest. Falkenham is beyond the edge of Kirton, and as you cycle down from the larger village the tower of St Ethelbert appears occasionally over the hedges and roof tops ahead, only to disappear as you come closer, screened as the church is by large trees and the old houses of the village street. The church has a delectable setting at the end of the village. The tower was likely completed early in the 15th Century, the royal arms of Henry IV flanked by shields with a lion rampant and a bear with a staff above the west door.

The church must have been in a poor state by the start of the 19th Century, as so often along the Suffolk estuaries. In the first decade of the century the nave walls were encased in white brick, which was later rendered. As James Bettley notes in the revised Buildings of England volume for East Suffolk, the chancel was already ruinous by the 17th Century and had likely already disappeared by the time repairs started on the nave. It was replaced with a shallow apse in the 1840s, and in the 1860s the nave and bell windows were replaced.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the interior is that of an early 19th Century church with the charm that you might expect from a pre-ecclesiological date. However, the wide nave retains its medieval hammerbeam roof, and the 15th Century font survives with particularly jaunty evangelist symbols. The narrow lancets of 19th Century coloured glass on either side of the sanctuary fill it with glowing light, an almost theatrical effect. All in all a curious building, rather lovely if not particularly significant architecturally. It is a reminder that every Suffolk church is different, but that some are more different than others.

Beyond the church, beyond the village, there is a view across the Deben estuary to Ramsholt on the far shore, several miles away, the pub and the church and the marshes between, and the low hills beyond.


Simon Knott, February 2021

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looking east sanctuary looking west
font winged bull of St Luke sanctuary lancet

Ramsholt church and the Ramsholt Arms pub from Falkenham churchyard

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