At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Andrew, Weybread

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Weybread St Andrew shields and foliage in the spandrels

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The village of Weybread sits along the road between Halesworth and Norfolk's Harleston, just short of the River Waveney and the Norfolk border. The church sits away from the busy road down a lane among big houses. It is a crisp-looking round-towered church, deceptively large, sprawling lazily in its neat churchyard. The overall effect is of the 14th and 15th Centuries, although Richard Phipson's 1860s restoration was uncharacteristically heavy-handed. The tower may be Norman in origin, but it isn't entirely clear what is going on at the bell stage, the refacing in flint disguising what was probably a later medieval addition.

You step through the 15th Century south porch with its flushwork arcading into a surprisingly wide and open space. There was a major refurbishment of the interior in the 1880s and 1890s giving it something of the character it has today, which is to say a High Victorian one. The most striking example of this is the great mural on the west wall of the nave depicting Christ in Majesty flanked by angels, the work of Clayton & Bell. Phipson's restoration brought the east window, the work of the O'Connor workshop before it was taken over by WG Taylor. James Bettley in his revision of the Buildings of England volume for East Suffolk reminds us that his predecessor Pevsner thought it was bad. The later restoration stuck with the workshop under its new name, with glass of the late 1880s signed by Taylor at his Berners Street address shortly before the company ceased production.

Bettley also tells us the names of some of the craftsmen responsible for furnishings in Phipson's restoration. The font was by Henry Vine of Eye, and the stone corbel heads depicting biblical figures in Phipson's rebuilt roof are by Barnabas Barrett of Norwich. The benches, each of them labelled free to show that they were not subject to pew rents, were by Thomas Stopher of Ipswich. Free sittings were a project of the Anglican revival of the mid-19th Century, of which this church is a document and a testament. One older survival is a roundel of early 16th Century glass depicting an eagle with a scroll and labelled Sanctus Johannes Evangelista, 'St John the Evangelist'.

On the wall of the north aisle there is a memorial plaque, and explanatory notice, for Sergeant Alfred Ablett VC DCM, the first Suffolk man to win the Victoria Cross. Ablett was born in Weybread in 1830, and won his VC during the Crimean War. He died in London, but according to Mortlock he was brought home to be buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard here. I thought this was a bit odd. The great majority of burials in English churchyards before the 20th Century received no headstone or other grave marker, but if you were proud enough of your heroic native son to bring him home for burial, you'd probably put up some sort of memorial, wouldn't you? As a sergeant Ablett was likely from a working class family, but his feats were well known at the time. The memorial on the wall dates from 1997, the centenary of Ablett's death. Up in the chancel, John Ayton of Scole Lodge is remembered. Ayton, from an earlier generation than Ablett and certainly at the other end of the social scale, was an active magistrate of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Buckingham of which last county he served the office of High Sheriff.

Simon Knott, March 2022

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looking east chancel looking west
font (Henry Vine, 1865) cut off font (15th Century) free
Sanctus Johannes Evangelista (St John the Evangelist) Christ in Majesty (Clayton & Bell, 1890s) AD MM in celebration the Millennium of Christ 2000 years
Ascension (O'Connor, 1866) Ascension above adoration of the shepherds, Crucifixion and the women at the empty tomb (O'Connor, 1866) 'Where I am, there shall also my servant be' (WG Taylor 1880s) Peace be unto you/Feed my sheep (O'Connor, 1860s) Adoration of the Shepherds
St Peter Moses St Paul
for many years an active magistrate of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Buckingham The first Suffolk man to win the Victoria Cross


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