visited Palgrave church several times
since this account first appeared, most
recently to take the photographs here.
However, I hope I will be forgiven for
retaining the original text from 2003, if
only for its freshness, and perhaps also
for what may be viewed at this distance
as its charm.
I arrived at Diss railway
station in that gentle sunshine for which
well remember the Spring of 2003.
Diss is in Norfolk; I had just crossed
the border on my train journey from
Ipswich, but I was bound for Diss's
southern suburb, the Suffolk village of
Palgrave. I cycled off from the station.
I headed under the railway line, and over
the infant Waveney. At this point, I
entered Suffolk again, but there were no
county signs in either direction. To be
honest, it didnt feel that
different, apart from the way that the
road surface improved, the schools came
off special measures, the police force
became efficient, and so on.
The countryside opened out
into golden oilseed rape fields under a
wide sky. It was good to be home. Soon, I
was coming into Palgrave village, which
seemed very pleasant indeed.
medieval times, Palgrave was actually two
parishes; the westerly one, Palgrave St John, has been subsumed into
this one, and that church has completely
disappeared. However, this pretty church is
walled neatly into its graveyard at the heart of
the village, which spreads neatly around it. As
this was my first church of the day, I hoped it
would be open; it always puts a crimp in a trip
if the first one is a lock-out. I was not
disappointed; St Peter is a friendly parish that
knows that part of its Christian mission is to
welcome strangers and pilgrims.
stepped through the elaborate arch of the late
15th Century south doorway. An angel and a dragon
contended in the spandrels, and there were
characterful heads carved in the entrance arch.
Inside, a very nice lady was busy with the
flowers, and took time out to show me around. All
the while, I was conscious that above my head the
lovely painted roof of Palgrave. Marian monograms
and symbols punctuate the whitewash; once, many
small Suffolk churches must have been like this.
Perhaps someone can explain to me why this one
hasnt faded like many of the others; I
dont think it has been redone.
other famous treasure here is the font. It is unlike anything
else in Suffolk. Clearly Norman, but much more
elaborate than most, its most outstanding
features are the faces in each corner. Again,
this is a more intimate experience of the faces
we normally see as corbels; but Palgrave has these
too, stunning medieval characters along the lines
of the arcades.
we are on the subject of treasure, there were two
modern features that were obviously loved by the
locals. Firstly, Surinder Warboys has her studio
nearby at Mellis, and here is one of her
windows in the south aisle. The light flooded
through it. The lady told me that everybody liked
it, but that it was very hard to do a flower
arrangement in front of it! I thought that they
had done very well. Secondly, up in the chancel
is the benefice millennium banner people
from all the parishes came together and produced
this amazing patchwork cross. On the back, there
are panels depicting the mission of the Church.
Apparently, it is shared around the benefice
churches for display for a few weeks at a time.
the place where many churches now display the
coat of arms, Palgrave has part of a suit of
armour. I have seen an explanation in several
books that it was from the parish armoury, which
was once stored in the upper room of the porch,
as at Mendlesham. This upper room has now
gone, and the armoury has, as in most churches,
been dispersed. However, I could find no evidence
for this story, and it seems to be based on one
of Arthur Mees fancies. I don't think it is
even real armour; rather, it is similar to the
mock plate armour behind the Bacon memorial at
nearby Redgrave. It seems likely to me
that this is also part of an old set of armour
associated with a memorial of some kind, which
the Victorians swept away. I dont suppose
well ever know.
outside again, I took time out to
photograph the famous grave of carter
John Catchpole, with its relief of a
wagon and horses you can see it in
the left-hand column. It seems a modern
fashion to decorate headstones with
symbols associated with the deceased;
nice to know it was happening in the
I turned, and looked back at
the neat tower, the splendid porch with
its dramatic niches. You can see that
there was once an upper room, but it has
And it was time for me to be
gone, too. Waving cheerily, I headed off
in the direction of Thrandeston, all the road back
to Ipswich open in front of me in the