At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Lawrence, Ilketshall St Lawrence

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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St Lawrence

St Lawrence at the gate porch gates cherub

   
   
simple light   It was early in the summer of 2008, and for the third time in my life I was attempting to visit all the churches of the Saints in one bike ride. As it would turn out, this would be the first time I would actually get inside all of them as well, but I was still early on in the journey when I got to St Lawrence, a church I fully expected to find open. I had been looking forward to coming back to this church for a long time. Last time I was here in 1998, the church was being got ready for a harvest festival. At the time I said that they had made it look very nice inside, I suppose; but in all honesty, this is a rather shabby building. The winds that blow from the Waveney have dug their damp fingers into the plaster; the whitewash is peeling, the walls are bulging. I wonder what I might find if I come back in twenty years time?

Surprisingly, half that time had already passed, faster than I would have wished it. But I had high hopes for my return, because I knew that St Lawrence had recently undergone a thorough restoration.

Seen from the road, St Lawrence is a small, fairly plain church. From the north, across the fields, however, it rides its ridge dramatically; the pines and cottages create a sense of an ancient hilltop community. It was almost certainly the site of a Roman station, protecting adjacent Stone Street. The 15th century tower is stark, its buttresses to the west seeming overlarge; the brick parapet serves to accentuate its trimness. The windows all seem to be Victorian, in a Decorated style; Mortlock thought they might echo what was there before, although the body of the church is actually older than the Decorated period.

I stepped into the delight of a crisp, beautiful building, thoroughly rustic in character, but obviously well-cared for and loved. I hardly recognised it in contrast with the building I had visited a decade previously; for, while I had found its shabbiness endearing, it had seemed dangererously close to some kind of abandonement. Nothing could be further from the truth today.

Pride of place has been given to the excellent royal arms of George II, restored and put in place above the tower arch. The Victorian tiles of the floor are vivid, as if dust would not dare to settle, and the clear light from the tracery of the east window fills a tiny chancel which is perfectly to scale.

A curiosity I had not noticed before is the wooden beam above a memorial on the south wall. It must have come from elsewhere. Crudely inscribed on it are the words Thomas? Peasant who dyed ye 9th of March 1693. I wonder what the story behind it is. Below it, the memorial tells us that In a vault near this place lies interred the remains of a ten year old girl, Sarah Doggett, who died in October 1819. There is a space beneath her name of a further child; but there were none.

  war memorial
   

Simon Knott, July 2008

See also a general introduction to the Saints

looking east looking west chancel
memorials font G II R

 

 

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