At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Mary and St Martin, Kirton

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Kirton Kirton Kirton
Kirton Kirton modern extension Kirton

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You don't have to get far from Ipswich to be in deep countryside, and despite Kirton's proximity to the A14 and Felixstowe the roads around here don't really go anywhere in a hurry, meandering pleasantly instead until they eventually peter out in the marshes. Kirton's parish church is set down at the end of a quiet lane. With its modern porch, its adjacent community hall, and its simple yet prayerful interior, this church feels a lively and much-used building. Here, there is a sense of a quiet spirituality - busy, yes, but rooted in its community, and with a sense of the local. It couldn't be anywhere else and remain the same.

The church is a pleasing jumble of dates and materials. The tower is quite late and was probably the last part of the church to be built before the Reformation intervened. Simon Cotton and Peter Northeast found no fewer than six bequests to it from 1504 onwards, and then in 1524 William Bennes of Stonham Aspal left 4 marks to the church of Kirton on condition that the parish buy a bell within 8 years of my decease. Several subsequent bequests were also for the buying of a bell, suggesting that by now the tower was complete.

The 19th Century brought a north aisle and general makeover by Frederick Barnes. A 20th Century modernisation of the west end of the north aisle including an entrance hall was the work of local architect Derek Woodley, best known for the memorable extension to Kesgrave All Saints and the restoration of Iken church after the dreadful fire there.

The tower incorporates blocks of septaria from the nearby beaches, and is a lovely honeyed colour. Inside, all is neat and bright, with white walls, modern glass and hangings, fitting for contemporary worship. The soft colours, the open treatment of the 19th Century north aisle, and the placing of the Norman font at the east end of this, all suit it very well.

Incidentally, the unusual dedication is probably a mistake. The medieval dedication of the church was to St Martin. However, the part of Shotley, across the Orwell, where the parish church was had been known as Kirketon, and the church there is dedicated to St Mary. The 18th Century antiquarians who researched church dedications which were later used as they were gradually restored to use had confused Kirketon with Kirton, and conflated the two dedications.


Simon Knott, February 2021

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looking east looking west
font sanctuary north aisle
Easter cross arcade

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