At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Nicholas, Hintlesham

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Hintlesham Hintlesham Hintlesham

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This grand old church sits on the busy Ipswich to Sudbury road in Hintlesham village, near to where the road goes through a series of gut-wrenching 90 degree turns to circumnavigate the pile of Hintlesham Hall, and incidentally, to reveal the old field pattern by running along what were the sides and ends of the medieval strips. Hintlesham Hall was once the home of the Timperley family, but is now one of the county's most famous and expensive hotels.

A modern porch hides the flint chequers of a typical Decorated south wall; and this is a typical Decorated church, and therefore not typical at all for Suffolk. The door opens into a rather dim, even mysterious interior, which is refreshingly unsanitised. It feels old. The benches make the nave rather crowded, but you step beneath the medieval rood beam into a chancel which has been cleared of all clutter. On the north side of the chancel is a rather remarkable object, a large table-top memorial now turned on end and bolted to the wall. It remembers Captayne John Timperley, son of Nicholas Timperley of Hintlesham Hall, for whose pyous memorie his loving wife caused this memoriall too too little to expresse either his deserte or her affection. It is, the inscription concludes, a silent and sadd epitaph writt in teares. Captayne John stands in full armour, his helmet and musket decorating the panelling of his portrait.

John Timperley, 1629 John Timperley helmet and musket

Opposite to John Timperley, his father and grandfather are remembered with their wives and children on the battered alabaster mural memorial. The Timperleys were recusant Catholics, and seem to have reached some accommodation with the authorities that didn't involve them being accused of treason, although they did lose all their property in the end. Unlike the Kytsons at Hengrave, of course, who seem to have had the power to negotiate themselves out of even this position. Curiously, the church guidebook, dated 2000, refers to the Timperleys as 'papists'. Perhaps the writer didn't realise that this is a term of abuse.

piscina and Timperley memorials Thomas and Nicholas Timperley with wives and children at prayer 1668 winged skull

There are some huge grotesque corbels in the chancel, and the squint in the north wall shows that the vestry was once a chapel, possibly a chantry to the Timperleys. It would have been converted to secular use in the 1540s. There is some unusual glass in the south side of the chancel, which appears the work of an amateur hand. A winged hour glass and other 18th Century motifs in the upper lights are presumably the work of someone in the middle of the 19th Century, as below are the apples, snakes and doves descending on fonts in the quarries. I wonder who they were made by.

winged hour glass apples, snakes and doves descending on fonts passion flower

The stairway to the roodloft in the south wall is one of the best preserved in Suffolk with its Tudor brick outline. It is interesting to see how far back the upper exit is set from the chancel arch. It must have been a big one, clearly intended for regular liturgical use. The Tudor brick shows that this stairway is late, and suggests the importance of the roodloft on the eve of the Reformation.

An image niche in the north aisle would have accompanied an altar against the screen. It now contains a modern image of St Nicholas, perhaps not completely different to that which it would have contained half a millennium ago. Also in the south aisle, etched quarries in the window glass have memorial inscriptions, and the churchwarden's initials and date on a roof beam, WV 1759. He is probably the William Vesey sleeping in the churchyard. The font is typically East Anglian and in good condition, set rather gloomily among the brick pamments under the organ gallery. There is a scrap of a surviving St Christopher wall painting to the north of it. Elsewhere, paintings, memorabilia and pictures are all nice little touches.

This has been a joint parish with Chattisham for about 350 years, and the churches stand about a mile apart from each other, separated by a valley of meadows and woods. The Victorian school building is still in use for its original purpose, still using the names of both villages, and remains one of the smallest schools in Suffolk. There is also a modern Community Hall, again bearing the names of both villages. This busy place has a decent pub, and when I first came here in the 1990s it still had a petrol station, a rare thing in the outback then - and rarer now, for it has since closed.

Of course, this isn't really the outback. A brisk stroll eastwards will bring you, in thirty minutes or so, to the edge of Ipswich, and the Chantry housing estate, Suffolk's largest. The Timperleys would find the name of that estate rather ironic, I think.

Simon Knott, November 2019

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looking east Hintlesham Hintlesham
font crowned IHS reredos
grotesque Charles Vesey Gent, whoe tooke to wife Elizabeth grotesque
crucified WV 1759 Hintlesham

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