At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Saxtead

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Saxtead Saxtead Saxtead
Saxtead Saxtead Saxtead
stocks Fear God and Honour the King looking out

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The busy A1120 bypasses Framlingham, but hurtles through the neighbouring straggle of Saxtead on its impatient journey towards the coast. Saxtead's best-known building is its post mill, which sits on Saxtead Green about half a mile from All Saints. The church is far less prominent than the mill. It lost its tower on the 8th July 1805, one of several in the county that collapsed before the Victorians had a chance to restore them. One wonders what the Suffolk landscape would be like today if the Oxford Movement and the 19th Century revival had never happened. The surviving little structure with its odd western face is constrained within and hidden by a tight churchyard full of mature trees, which look very beautiful, but make photographing the exterior in summer difficult. You could easily drive past without noticing it. The porch is a typical 15th Century Suffolk job, all flushwork and niches. The church it stands against is much older, and we still see it largely in its 13th and 14th Century form.

The church you enter is full of light, neat and clean, a typical small Suffolk parish church. There is no coloured glass, and apart from the 17th Century holy table and communion rails, the furnishings are all 19th Century and later. But the benches retain some medieval ends. These are greatly damaged, but retain traces of some figures. Mortlock thought that they were done by the same carver as those at neighbouring Tannington, and indeed they may even have come from the same church. The nave has an elegant hammerbeam roof, and a curious square window beside the lower door to the rood loft stair was probably created when the stairway was removed. There are memorable 18th Century decalogue boards and a set of Hanoverian royal arms, imposing in such a small chancel.

Hanoverian arms paternoster and creed board decalogue board and piscina

Peter Northeast and Simon Cotton found a number of early 16th Century wills which tell us something about the late medieval life of this place. In 1504 Reynold Dalby left 13s 4d (two nobles) to the painting of the canopy, meaning the ceilure above the rood screen, and the same amount to the making of an image of St Margaret, with the tabernacle. Anne Davys left the remarkably large amount of 4 towards the price of a cope in 1504, and the following year Thomas Boton left 12 marks for an antiphoner. But there was still work to be done on the fabric of the building. Margaret Boton in 1507 and John Boton in 1508 left money towards the making of a boterasse (buttress) and Peter Bedyngfelde left 33s 4d to the reconciling or hallowing of the church, which seems to mean either to the fabric or to the devotional furnishings. Thomas Norman's 1534 bequest to the making of the church porch is odd, for surely the porch is older than that. But thereafter, the Reformation intervened, so perhaps a planned replacement porch was never built, and the canopy, image, tabernacle, cope and antiphoner were all either burnt or sold for profit.

One of the most interesting features of the church is the set of stocks and whipping post in the porch. Similar survivals can be seen in the porches at Redlingfield and South Elmham St Margaret and also at Ufford where they are by the gate. I think this set is the best of all, though. They bear a warning to 'Fear God and Honour the King' - none of this wishy-washy liberal nonsense in the 18th Century Church of England.

But really, to step outside again is to save the best until last, because Saxtead's beautifully overgrown graveyard is a delight to explore, especially on a sunny day in late spring or early summer. Here, as Thomas Gray famously observed in the middle years of the 18th Century, Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade, Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap, Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. Here are the blacksmith and the ploughman in their serried crooked ranks, the old couples married for sixty years and then dying within a few weeks of each other, and their children, taken from them in infancy, or childhood, or early adulthood. The Pipes and the Mannings, the Wightmans and the Buttons (presumably descendants of the Botons of those 16th Century bequests), the Davys (likewise) and the Bardwells, the surnames repeated down the long Saxtead generations.

And some of the children do not lie here at all of course, the inscriptions merely remembering that they disappeared into the mud and blood of Flanders and the Somme more than a century ago, just names now in the parish that gave them birth, but who are still remembered.


Simon Knott, April 2021

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looking east sanctuary looking west
tower arch (though no tower now) font consecration cross corner piscina


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a corner of a Suffolk churchyard a corner of a Suffolk churchyard a corner of a Suffolk churchyard a corner of a Suffolk churchyard
Thomas Bardwell here the weary are at rest a corner of a Suffolk churchyard a corner of a Suffolk churchyard 
a corner of a Suffolk churchyard Henrietta Manning Catherine and Thomas Davy and their son George, killed in action in France the Saxtead dead
Ermina Marsh Wells Matilda Cook James Cook killed in action in France
Sarah and William Cook loving thoughts will always linger farewell dear mother James and Rachel Pipe


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