At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Great Ashfield

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Great Ashfield

Great Ashfield Great Ashfield Great Ashfield Great Ashfield
Great Ashfield Great Ashfield Great Ashfield Great Ashfield

385   The villages in this part of Suffolk are working villages, too far from anywhere important, and too agri-industrialised, for them to be attractive to commuters. But the setting of All Saints is delightful, set on a slight rise with a stream along the edge of the churchyard. You have to cross a watersplash to reach it. The churchyard has an abundance of 19th Century gravestones, a reminder that the rural population of East Anglia reached its peak with the 1851 census, and has been falling away ever since. Steps on the south-eastern corner of the churchyard lead you to a memorial to the 385th Bombardment Group of the US 8th Air Force.

The tower is rather severe, relieved slightly by the little spirelet. The stairway acts as a buttress to to south east corner. But the porch is a delight, a Tudor brick one dressed in flint, entirely in the style of the wholly flint ones of a decade earlier. It is reminscent of the red brick porch at Ixworth Thorpe, a few miles to the west, and Sam Mortlock found the same little heads used as decoration on both, suggesting that they were the work of the same builder.

I have never been very fortunate with visits to this church. For many years, there was no keyholder notice, but while the church is still kept locked there are now three available keys. When I went to get one of them, the nice lady was already standing at the gate with it - she had been in her garden and heard me telling Peter Stephens that there was now a notice, and had hurried inside to get the key.

You step into a rather crowded nave, full of interest. Turning to the east, you see a chancel full of coloured light from what I think to be quite the best AK Nicholson window in East Anglia. it depicts the Risen Christ with attendant angels, and at the bottom are a sower in a field, and an angel reaping sheathes of wheat, both figures carrying out duties which must have seemed entirely familiar to locals as late as 1926, when this window was installed. AK Nicholson was the artist of the apotheosis of Anglicanism in the 1920s. Here we see the triumph of the Church of England before its long, slow decline over the next five decades.

AK Nicholson: as ye sow AK Nicholson: serve him in the temple AK Nicholson AK Nicholson: so shall ye reap
AK Nicholson: angel AK Nicholson: the Risen Christ AK Nicholson: angels crown him AK Nicholson: angel

At the east end of the north aisle is the feature which will be of most interest to many visitors, the memorial chapel to 385 Bombardment Group. The design was one of the last works of the great H Munro Cautley as diocesan architect, full at once of his intelligent medievalism and the cinema deco which often informs his work. The later window to the north is by the Suffolk-based artist Surinder Warboys, the upper part depicting the bombers flying out across a Suffolk sky.

Cautley's memorial chapel Surinder Warboys window

One very unusual survival is a medieval bench end of a mermaid, badly damaged but still recognisable as such. But perhaps the most singular feature of All Saints, and one not easily missed, is the imposing pulpit, one of the biggest and squarest of its kind in Suffolk. It is dated 1619 at the front of the tester, and Sam Mortlock thinks it was probably donated by William Fyrmage, a known benefactor at the time and the probable reason for the intials WF at the back. Near it, a stall is carved with blacksmith's tools.

Nicholas Fyrmage, another benefactor, has a most curious early 17th Century charity board in his honour, stretching out like an unfurled scroll and now attached to the chancel wall. The reason for its nature is that it was originally displayed along the roodbeam, a constant reminder to locals.


Simon Knott, April 2011



looking east sanctuary pulpit font
mermaid gave his life at the battle for Overloon & Venray a band of men whose hearts God touched Nicholaus Fyrmage, generosus blacksmith's tools

ales victoria Henry Arthur Elmer 1896 1950 and of her infant daughter

HAE 1896 LE 1950


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