At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Mary, Holton

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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

Holton St Mary

    St Mary has a melted-cheese appearance. The 15th century tower didn't stand up to the centuries of neglect, and rather than rebuild it, the Victorians reduced it. So it stands all squat and sturdy, and looks very well indeed. Reading the journals of antiquarians of the 18th century, it is easy to imagine the elements blowing through the parish churches of Suffolk before the Tractarians sent a great wave out of Oxford to renew them - but this is so often an unjust simplification, especially here, where a remarkable 18th century Rector oversaw the pastoral care of this community.
His name was Stephen White, and you step into a neat little, sweet little interior that, despite an overwhelming Victorianisation (and a good one) still contains memories of his stewardship. On the south wall is the wooden sign from the school he opened for the village children. It was the building you passed at the churchyard gate, but it is now a private house. On August 29th, 1748, it opened for business - and it was not slothful in business, serving the Lord. Remarkably, the school sign was painted by that local up-and-coming artist, Thomas Gainsborough.

Opposite, is his memorial - he died on Easter Monday 1773, called away from his labours, to receive their reward.
The Victorians who inherited his good works made an excellent job of the chancel - Heaton, Butler and Bayne's psalmist angels praise God in the east window, and the stained glass evangelists of the O'Connors either side of the sanctuary are a delight.

This church is by no means a museum piece. That it is open to the public every day is a sign that it is fitting and purposeful for private prayer, as much as for any tourists who come for what Larkin calls 'a whiff of antique'. Amen to that.

  not slothful in business, serving the LORD

Simon Knott, July 2015

looking east

Faith: blessed is she that believeth Hope: Christ in you the hope of glory Charity: herein is love
G II R Blessed Virgin two angel musicians (Heaton, Butler & Bayne) Resurrection and Ascension Holton St Mary M U
as he was officiating in the church he was suddenly called away from his labours Holton St Mary men who served in the Great War 2/8th Gurkha Rifles



Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site