At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Stanton

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Stanton All Saints

porch chancel

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Stanton is a big village in the north of Suffolk with an air of independence and this attractive church in its centre. All Saints appears to have a south porch with a turret on top, which is incongruous, until you realise that it was once a southern tower. Suffolk has more than a few churches whose towers have collapsed over the years, but only a couple where this has happened in the modern era. All Saints lost its southern tower in 1906, and consequently documentation and photographs survive. If it had happened a hundred years earlier, we would not have this evidence, and in any case those energetic Victorians would have built a new one in its place.

The large village of Stanton once had two parish churches. The other, St John, is now a ruin in the village burial ground. It was once the more substantial church of the two, but fell out of use rather than All Saints, which was the favoured of the two by virtue of its location. Roy Tricker credits the Victorian restoration to a Mr Markham of London. The parish could not afford to have the tower restored as well, which probably explains why it fell.

Internally, All Saints is not perhaps particularly exciting, although the 1870s restoration was relatively kind, and there is still a sense of a rural, rustic space. The tall chancel arch is elegant, and the open rood loft entrance helps us imagine how it must have looked soaring over the crucifix. To the south is the late medieval arcade and aisle, with the largely original roof and a tomb recess that climbs up to it. The chancel is also largely Victorian.There are little clerestory windows to the south, but generally this is a light church, thanks to the clear glass which shows the decorated tracery to best advantage.

A curiosity of the church is the east window. It depicts a version of Holman Hunt's The Light of the World. This image was a great favourite of the Victorians, and you can find it in hundreds of English churches, but the representation here dates from as late as 1955. This was a particularly innovative decade as far as church art went, and the modernist glass in Suffolk churches which is contemporary with this window is some of the most striking and memorable work you will find in the county. How odd, then, that such a traditional image should have been installed here! I wonder if it replaced a Victorian version of the same image?

The best glass is a collected continental piece, probably of the 17th Century, depicting St Margaret, holding her cross and the fire-breathing dragon behind her, alongside St Elizabeth of Hungary, dispensing alms to the poor. It was probably intended that they should represent the Christian virtues of Faith and Charity.

Simon Knott, July 2019

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looking east

south arcade chancel Light of the World (1955)
St Margaret and St Elizabeth of Hungary representing Faith and Charity (Continental, 17th Century)

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