At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Margaret, South Elmham St Margaret

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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St Margaret

St Margaret St Margaret south doorway

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          South Elmham St Margaret is that rare thing among the Saints, for it is a proper village, stretching for half a mile or so along the curving road between Homersfield and Halesworth. For much of the way, council houses add a touch of life to the place, several of them with roadside stalls selling eggs, flowers and apples. I liked this a lot. The church is in the tightest part of the curve, with a hemmed in churchyard with a good collection of 18th and early 19th Century headstones. There were considerable bequests in 1524 and 1526 to the bilding of the steple, and this is odd, for as Pevsner points out the tower is surely entirely of the 14th Century. The obvious conclusion is that the Reformation intervened before the rebuilding of the tower on a grander scale could begin.

The tower has pretty little windows in its stair turret, but the outside was generally sanitised by our old friend Phipson in the 1870s. In the porch are the old village stocks, and it takes a moment or two to work out what is strange about them, for there are an odd number of holes. Stepping through the Norman south doorway, you enter this lovely little church. This is a small church, richly furnished and pleasing to the eye. The roof is simple yet beautiful, accentuated by the high tower arch. The glass in the west window is probably by FC Eden, who was very busy indeed a few miles off at Barsham. This also seems to have been an uncharacteristically wealthy parish, and as well as the Eden glass there is good glass here by the Ward & Hughes and Clayton & Bell workshops

A striking feature of the chancel is the early 16th Century Easter Sepulchre, late and crisply carved, but if it was also a tombchest then we no longer know who it belonged to. It is small, compact, like its church. A rare survival, and one easily missed, is the section of the rood screen dado reset in the corner of the sanctuary to make a table. The figures are barely discernible, but Mortlock thought that one of them was probably St Hubert, which would be a unique survival in Suffolk.

A curiosity is the graffiti above the tower doorway. Graffiti is fairly common in East Anglian churches, especially from the 17th Century when the locals seem to have taken to producing it as if it were a positive duty, but this is earlier and more elaborate than most. On the right hand side is the name John Sellynge in an Elizabethan script, and to the left is an elaborate rose, which may have been a consecration cross, but which was probably intended as nothing more than a beautiful mathematical design. It must have taken hours.

Simon Knott, February 2022

You can also read a general introduction to the churches of the Saints.

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looking east chancel looking west
font candle bracket and hour glass lectern and pulpit Easter sepulchre
Transfiguration (Clayton & Bell, 1888) Blessed Virgin and child and St Anne (FC Eden, 1917) St Peter released from prison by an angel and forgiving a Roman soldier
Isaiah with a church and a farm To the Glory of God and in loving Memory Micah with a castle and a windmill
cherubs and pineapples, 1748 selm margaret (27) selm margaret (28)
screen panels stocks


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