At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Peter, Redisham

At the sign of the Barking lion...

home index e-mail what's new? - a journey through the churches of Suffolk



Christ's feet   The gentle rolling landscape between Halesworth, Beccles and Bungay is always a pleasure to cycle. There are so many narrow lanes meandering pleasantly towards nowhere in particular, and the three main roads on the outside of this triangle seem to pick up virtually all the traffic.The villages are mostly quiet and peaceful, if a touch suburban.

Redisham is the nearest village to Brampton railway station, one of the most remote in Suffolk. Whenever I buy a ticket to here, the man behind the counter at Ipswich station makes a little joke about whether I want the Brampton in Suffolk or the Brampton in Cumbria. He tells me that I'm the only person he's ever sold a ticket to for the Brampton one. When I tell him that there isn't much to the Suffolk Brampton - except for the railway station, of course - he listens as if I am Marco Polo bringing back tales of foreign lands.

I was once very rude about Redisham church. I know this, because someone from Redisham wrote to tell me so. I had complained that Redisham church was one of only two inaccessible churches in this whole swathe of north-east Suffolk, and I suggested that this reflected badly on the parish. But that was back in the bad old days. Today, the church has a very friendly keyholder a couple of doors up near the road off to the station.

St Peter is a pretty little church, and even on this gloomy Saturday morning with the drizzle soaking into my bones it looked lovely on its green cushion. Sam Mortlock described it as 'unobtrusive': The little bell turret at the west end is rather squat, and from a distance, in this murky light, it looked a little like a chimney, as if this was a cottage. The most striking feature as you approach is the grand Norman doorway in which is set the south entrance. This, then, was a Norman church. Rather alarmingly, the padlock came to pieces in my hands as I unlocked it, but I think this was meant to happen. The door itself is medieval, with the old ironwork banding making it secure.

The interior is even prettier than the exterior, and the clear light is coloured by one of the finest 20th Century windows in this part of Suffolk. It must be the work of Christopher Webb, and depicts Christ beginning his mission by summoning the fishermen, including this church's patron, St Peter.

Peter with James and John Resurrection Christ with the Fishermen

The 19th century restoration by Butterworth was gentle to St Peter, and the brick floors give the interior great character. There are a few impressive late medieval survivals: the font is elegant and harmonious, with blank shields which must once have been painted alternating with roses. Best of all, up in the chancel, I liked the bench ends. An old one shows a creature reaching back to eat from a pot on its back. A modern companion is a bear licking out another pot, as if he was Winnie the Pooh.

Outside, I pottered about the churchyard. I was looking for a gravestone mentioned by Mortlock, and I found it in a line to the west of the path. It is to an 11 month old girl, Eliza Westrup, who died in 1840. Her birth was obviously the result of an illicit tryst, and the father either unknown or denied. The inscription is an unveiled attack on him, and it is fascinating because it uses the Puritan language of two centuries earlier. Interestingly, the gravestone is set facing away from the path, unlike all the others:

Remember me as you pass by, tho' you my father did me deny.
Glad were you to hear the sound of the bell that passed me to the ground.
If you were free from sin as I, you would not be afraid to die.
As I am now so you must be, therefore prepare to follow me.


Simon Knott, August 2008

Grand Norman font chancel
Winnie the Pooh medieval ironwork eating out of a pot on his back royal arms

gates my father did me deny

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