St Mary, Dennington
|home index e-mail what's new?||
www.suffolkchurches.co.uk - a journey through the churches of Suffolk
St Mary is a more familiar sight
than many rural Suffolk churches, because the main A1120
which heads towards Framlingham from Stowmarket changes
its mind at the last moment, and threads through
Dennington instead. The church dominates the parish, and
you can't miss it. You approach from the west, and may
notice that, as at Parham on the other side of
Framlingham, there is a rood group of niches set into
that side of the tower. The exterior is solid, grand and
bulky, impressive but revealing nothing of the treasures
to be found within. The churchyard gates with their
crowns and angels are clearly the work of Munro Cautley.
The main entrance into the church is through the north
porch, but it is worth having a look at the south side
first, with its grand window into the Bardolph chantry at
the east end of the south aisle. This walk also confirms
how little Victorianisation took place here. The same is
true inside, and suggests that the building was in a
reasonable condition at the start of the 19th century,
and didn't need much restoring.
The pulpit sits at the east end of
the range, a Laudian creation of the 1620s in a
pre-Reformation style. It was later converted into a
three-decker affair, the box pew in front of it retaining
its range of hat pegs.
The Bardolphs were an important family. William was chamberlain to Henry VI, a hero of Agincourt and Harfleur, a knight of the garter. He died in 1441, and lies with his collar of Ss. At his feet is a heraldic eagle, and in his helmet he looks a bit like Yuri Gagarin. His wife has a gorgeous wyvern at her feet. Her pillow is supported by angels that look as if they are whispering to her and singing her to her rest - a strain of Purcell comes to mind - and she too wears the collar of Ss. Above the Bardolph tombs is a fine 17th century monument to the Rous family, who succeeded them.
Elsewhere in the nave are a Father Willis organ, a decent 15th century font with 16th century cover, and above it an early George III royal arms with the churchwarden's inscription. In the north aisle, now a village museum, you'll find the sand tray used to teach village children to read and write in the early 19th century. Above, the remarkable botanical windows are by Constantine Woolnaugh. Can they really be as early as 1858? Lots of interest then, and if the chancel did not exist, this would still be a wonderful building.
But what the chancel contains would also be worth a visit alone. You step through between brilliantly castellated arch springs. This part of the building is full of the confident beauty of the years before the Black Death turned us all serious and gave us an acute sense of our own mortality. In particular, the jolly window stops, which include a pope wearing a triple tiara, some long-eared owls and a green man.
Hanging above the sanctuary is what
is, according to Cautley, one of England's four surviving
medieval pyxes. Here, the blessed sacrament was stored in
Catholic days, for prayer in its presence, exposition and
administration to the sick. It is about a metre and a
half high, a spire in the sky. The sacrament was reserved
in the base where the curtain falls. From the mid-16th
century Reformation until the restoration of
sacramentalism by the Oxford Movement in the 19th
century, the sacrament was not reserved at all in English
churches. Today, it is falling into disuse in Anglican
churches again. Cautley found this pyx in the museum wing
back in the 1930s and insisted on it being pressed back
into service, so today it is in its original position,
reserving the Anglican sacrament.
Simon Knott, September 2018
Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site