|This is enhanced by Lamb's
most remarkable feature, the roof that looks like
a mathematical puzzle, and is either inspired by,
or a joke at the expense of, the famous medieval
roofs of Suffolk, depending on your perspective.
The west end has an organ gallery,
decorated in the Arts and Crafts manner.
The church was opened on August
31st 1854, by Bishop Blomfield of London, who had
been born in Suffolk, and was, coincidentally,
the father of that most prominent in Suffolk of
all major 19th Century architects, Sir Arthur
west gallery (detail)
But the finest and most
remarkable features of the church are after the
Reverend Blathwayt's time. In 1874, he was
succeeded by Father Berney Wodehouse Raven, who
cleverly and gently introduced high
Anglo-catholic practice here.
During the course of his
ministry, and that of his successor Father Roe,
and then in the years afterwards, the aspects of
this church that make it so beautiful found their
Above, the Adoration of the shepherds, with the
Annunciation cut off to the left (oops).
memorial to Arthur Rope.
||These are almost entirely the
work of one family, the Ropes, whose windows and
reliefs are found in several churches in Suffolk,
as well as Churches and Cathedrals all over the
They lived in
this parish, and in the north transept, we find
the finest hour of Margaret Edith Aldrich Rope
('Tor' to her family - you can see her tortoise
symbol on the right hand side). The left hand
window shows scenes from the Gospel of St Luke.
The right hand window is a memorial to her
parents, who died in the 1940s. Scenes at the
bottom show us rural Suffolk life in the years of
the 20th Century, a stained glass narrative to
the books of Adrian Bell, perhaps.
Elsewhere, we find Dorothy
Rope's art nouveau memorial to the young Arthur
Rope, who died at the age of 16 in 1905. But my
favourite piece of work is Ellen Mary Rope's
plaster relief in the children's corner, which
shows the nativity. I'm considering taking it to
my Desert Island as my luxury.
Above it is a little window
that, if you look, contains tracery in the shape
of the letters EBL. It is Lamb's signature.
It is right that this maverick
architect should have designed this maverick
church here, because Leiston is a most curious
You arrive from what is
probably the wildest part of Suffolk, which ever
way you enter it, to find yourself briefly
surrounded by council estates and flyovers. And
then, you are out in the countryside again.
The main shopping street is,
obviously, all 19th and 20th century, and has the
feel of a miners' town in South Yorkshire or
South Wales about it. The trouble with towns that
only have one employer, of course, is what
happens when that single employer closes, which
is exactly what happened to Garretts in the
|Then, the town really DID
become like a miners town. The great salvation to
the town, was the Sizewell B nuclear reactor,
which stands a mile or so to the east of Leiston,
and employs just about everybody in it.
Anti-nuclear protestors don't go down so well
curiosity to me is the way that Leiston lives in
symbiosis with Aldeburgh, a
town of almost exactly the same size just three
miles away. Aldeburgh, as you may know, is
probably Suffolk's poshest, classiest town;
Leiston, and let us be frank here, is one of the
It is as if a normal town had
been split in two, one part keeping the big
houses, wine bars and designer clothes shops, the
other keeping the blue collar estates, working
mens clubs and industry. Most curious.
I arrived at St Margaret to
find the church being cleaned, and the kind lady
gave me a guided tour. She knew the church very
well, and obviously loved it dearly.
This isn't a common experience
for me - so often, I find myself explaining to
people about their own church - and so I was
terribly pleased, and think that the parish
should be proud of her.
However, in conversation, she
did tell me that the church is kept locked. More
than this, she told me that the key is not now
given out to anybody, so this remarkable
testimony to High Victorian Gothic, and the Arts
and Crafts movement, is locked away, except for
services. This decision was taken after a cross
was stolen, so perhaps we in Suffolk haven't got
so much to be smug about after all.
memorial to Father Raven, Parish priest who led
the Catholic revival between 1874 and 1909.
panel to the Nativity (roughly 80cm long).