At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Margaret, Linstead Parva

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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St Margaret: coy and lovely
porch west end with niches path to the priest door

Mother of God   This dear little church sits at a crossroads along the Halesworth to Harleston road. In centuries past it was probably a more important place than today, a meeting of ways in the woods. Although the road can be busy, these are peaceful parishes, fairly depopulated in comparison with a century and a half ago. It is unlikely that the money spent on their 19th century restorations would be so easily found today.

Parva in a place name means 'lesser', and its popularisation is really a Victorianism, although it was in use before that. The Parva village here is larger than the Magna (greater) Linstead, which is now very small indeed. The church of St Peter, Linstead Magna, has now competely disappeared, although on the entry for St Peter you can read about my search for traces of it, and there are some remains of it here at St Margaret.

St Margaret of Antioch sits in a prettily overgrown churchyard, with large and abundant trees all around. They form a tunnel effect as you approach the south porch, and it is quite impossible to take a useful photograph of any aspect other than the north, where the churchyard opens out somewhat. The church has one of those curious little Victorian turrets, and all in all rather reminds me of St Peter, Lindsey. Against the west wall lean broken gravestones from the 18th and 19th centuries. They were rescued from the lost churchyard of Linstead Magna in the 1980s.

You step inside to a well-kept coolness. This is a prayerful place, which of course all churches should be, though some of them aren't. A beautiful Madonna and child stands in a window splay, just as it did when I came this way ten years ago. This is an ancient place, a 13th century church that wasn't updated much afterwards, but the Victorians laid a heavy hand on it, most notably the ugly vestry on the north side. The church is furnished largely with dull Victorian benches, but the ones towards the west are pretty and medieval. They came from St Peter at Linstead Magna, and were probably brought here in the late 19th century. On the end of one there is a splendid fellow saying his rosary, the beads hanging from his hand. He did rather well to escape the attention of the reformers.

The font is interesting, because it clearly did not come from this church at all. Like many older octagonal fonts in Suffolk, it has one blank side, suggesting that it once stood against a pillar in the north arcade, as once many did. But, of course, that cannot be, because this church doesn't have a north arcade, it doesn't have any pillars at all. The church of St Augustine, Ipswich, is supposed to contain the font formerly in St Peter, Linstead Magna. But Mortlock suggests that St Peter's old font may actually be this one, here at St Margaret. Perhaps St Augustine contains the old font from St Margaret. Cautley, however, writing just 10 years after the demolition of St Peter, insists its font went to Ipswich. He was diocesan architect at the time, so shouldn't he know?

St Margaret is the only church where I recall seeing a war memorial in tapestry form. It is rather poignant, a link back to an ordinary parishioner recording the parish's pride and pain in the way she knew best. Above, nineteenth century glass fills a window in the nave, and also the east window of the chancel. That in the nave depicts Christ at Bethany with Martha and Mary. Martha sulks as she lays the table; Mary appears to be wearing a party dress.

This is a curiously stilted scene, but not as odd as the glass in the east window. This depicts St Peter and St Paul, but the styles of the two are quite different, and they clearly came from different workshops, perhaps even different churches. St Peter's face is apparently taken from the life of a serious Victorian gentleman, and I wondered who he was, and in which church he believed he would be commemorated.

Finally, Linstead Parva is such a peaceful, remote place, that the laminated sign in the porch detailing the Parish Disaster Plan seemed quite surreal.

  Disaster plan

Simon Knott, 2007


look east mysterious font chancel look west
Christ with Martha and Mary Martha and Mary Mary St Peter St Paul
war memorial font 

Linstead Magna gravestones Linstead Magna gravestones


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