At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Hacheston

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Hacheston Arcedeckne mausoleum Hacheston

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There are two separate villages of Hacheston, Upper and Lower. Lower is down on the A12, but All Saints is in the Upper village. The church sits on the busy road between Framlingham and Wickham Market, and thousands of people must pass it every day. It is perhaps an undistinguished church at first sight, although the tower is dramatic from the road, which has cut down beside it. On the north side of the graveyard is the huge Arcedeckne mausoleum, as big as a garage. It seems to sulk from being so cut off, for the north side of the church is not the more attractive aspect. On the south side, the early 16th century south aisle is beautiful and lends a quiet grandeur to what would otherwise be a fairly small church.

Unusually for Suffolk, but as at neighbouring Parham, you step directly through the west door into the space beneath the tower and into the lovely church, with its patina of age that the Victorians failed to erase. All Saints was the very last stop on William Dowsing's grand wrecking spree of 1644, and he had not run out of enthusiasm or ideas, defacing imagery on the font and, unusually, also taking the roodscreen to task. Presumably, it hadn't been vandalised enough by the Anglican reformers of a century earlier. Since the 1880s restoration, the roodscreen panels have been relocated to the west end of the nave, around the font. The Saints are badly damaged. They appear to have been a set of the Apostles, and you can still make out St Jude, St Simon and St James.

There are some quietly good examples of late 19th and early 20th Century glass workshops. The window depicting the raising of Dorcas on the north side of the nave is by Lavers & Westlake. St George and St Martin flank Christ in Majesty in Bryans & Webb's 1919 east window, the war memorial. The same workshop was also responsible for the Presentation in the Temple in the south aisle. Another quiet survival is the 17th Century pulpit, simply reset on a podium by the 19th Century restorers.

Every medieval church had its rood of course, and although none survive thanks to the efforts of Edward VI's cronies, some of the tympana to which they were attached have. The Wenhaston Doom, ten miles away, is one of the most famous in England, a richly painted setting that backed the rood. After the Reformation, these tympana were generally whitewashed, and had the royal coat of arms fixed to them, along with a few well-chosen verses to remind the common people who was in charge now. Because of this, and a little ironically under the circumstances, the tympana were generally removed and destroyed by the Victorian restorers as not being medieval enough. Only a few survive, and Hacheston's doesn't, but the timbers that supported it are still in place above the rood beam, an unusual survival.

Dowsing is blamed for a lot, but most of the damage done to our medieval churches occured 100 years before he went on his merry way. His was essentially a mopping up operation. In the 1540s, the hooligan gangs of the Reformation vanguard went on their drunken sprees. Their main targets were images of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. By Dowsing's time, no relief or statue of a saint survived in situ anywhere in Suffolk. Most were destroyed, although some were sold abroad for a quick and easy profit. A few, however, were either carelessly discarded below floorboards or even rescued and hidden. During the Victorian restorations of our English churches several came to light, most famously in Suffolk the image of the Adoration of the Magi at Long Melford. There is one here, too, set in the wall of the south aisle. It shows St Thomas touching the wounds of Christ, exquisite in alabaster. The person who made it in 14th century England could not have begun to imagine how unusual it would one day be.

Simon Knott, January 2020

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looking east chancel looking west
St Jude St James font St Simon unknown Saint
This woman was full of good works (Lavers & Westlake, 1891) be thou faithful unto death I will give thee a crown of life (Bryans & Webb, 1919) Tabitha arise (Lavers & Westlake, 1891)
traceried bench end St Thomas touches the wound of Christ (English alabaster, 14th Century) piscina and sedilia
Blessed Virgin and St Joseph at the Presentation in the Temple (Bryans & Webb, 1922) St George (Bryans & Webb, 1919) Christ in majesty (Bryans & Webb, 1919) St Martin (Bryans & Webb, 1919) Presentation in the Temple (Bryans & Webb, 1922)

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