At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Mary, Gosbeck

At the sign of the Barking lion...

home index e-mail what's new? - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


Gosbeck Gosbeck Gosbeck

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.


We are close enough to Ipswich to sense its orbit, but remote enough for Gosbeck not to be a place that many of the county town's residents will have heard of. The lanes out here meander nowhere in particular, and it is possible to cycle a long way without seeing a car. The villages are generally away from their churches, and both Gosbeck and nearby Crowfield are almost a mile from theirs. St Mary sits in its graveyard surrounded by fields, one big house beside it, the air full of birdsong and the rustle of leaves.The solid 14th century tower is one of those south ones you frequently find in the Ipswich area.

Externally, the church cannot have changed a great deal in appearance since the 14th Century, but a crisp 19th Century restoration has left a building with an endearingly rustic feel, and a flavour of the dominant enthusiasms of the Church of England in the last years of that century, and the early decades of the one which followed.

You step inside to a curiosity, for the body of the nave is screened off from the back part, forming a kind of baptistery. The screen is probably contemporary with the font, as the 19th Century becomes the 20th, but the most interesting feature at this end is the iron-bound door to the tower, which may very well also date from as early as the 14th Century. You step through the gap into the body of a well-kept, trim Victorian church, the work of diocesan architect Herbert Green, who managed to keep his frequent enthusiasm for neo-Norman under check here.

The best feature of the church is Green's reredos, at once grand and sentimental. It was not installed until the early years of the new century, some time after his restoration. Either side of the Resurrection are the raising of Lazarus and the raising of Jairus's daughter, and perhaps the designers anticipated a less-enlightened age, when people might not know what was going on, by labelling them. The same two outer scenes can also be found flanking the Resurrection in the east window at neighbouring Crowfield.


the Raising of Jairus's daughter at the foot of the cross the Raising of Lazarus

The other pleasing feature is the glass, again turn of the century, suiting the church well. William Worrall's Blessed Virgin and Child of 1902 in the chancel is striking. Some panels from the former rood screen are attached to the north wall. Unusually, they are traceried.

St Mary is a perfect example of all that is best about an ordinary rural parish church: not historically or artistically significant perhaps, but well-cared for, obviously loved, opened to pilgrims and strangers, and a vital heart of its community.

Back outside, the graveyard is an interesting place to wander. To the south of the chancel is a headstone to Caroline Attwood, the daughter of the composer Thomas Attwood, better known in the early 19th Century than he is today. He was a pupil of Mozart in Vienna, an unlikely connection in this quiet spot. He wrote the anthem for the Coronation of King William IV, and was hard at work seven years later on an anthem for the Coronation of Queen Victoria when he died. By the time of Caroline's death in 1889 he would already have been unfashionable, but his choral anthems are still sometimes performed, particularly in cathedrals, and he himself is buried under the organ of St Paul's Cathedral in London.

There are some unusual brick anthropomorphic tombs to the west of the church, probably the speciality of a local artisan, and a skull and bones mark the place where resteth the body of Amy Green, the wife of Abraham Green, who departed this life in 1735, at the age of 25. Such a short life, and so long ago, but still remembered. I made a mental note to remind my family to put a headstone up for me, possibly even with a skull and bones at the top, and headed on towards Crowfield.

Simon Knott, November 2019

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.

looking east sanctuary font
Art Nouveau Blessed Virgin and Child the king of love my shepherd is Annunciation
screen dado little lamb (William Worrall, 1902) English flowers
died in the Great War medieval iron bound door Here resteth the body of Amy Green, the wife of Abraham Green, who departed this life in 1735, at the age of 25

Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site