South Elmham – St. Peter’s Church

The rain cleared a bit by the time that we got to St. Peter’s Church in South Elmham, a church where it’s hard to see how its small parish was ever able to support it.

The tower is in need of some attention, the foliage growing on it will eventually start to cause structural damage.

The four-stage tower, likely from the late fourteenth century.

The fourteenth century porchway, with the carved stone faces still visible.

There have been some rather crude repairs here over the years and I wonder whether they just rendered over that to hide the patchwork of stone. There have been some recent repairs to the end chancel wall, which have now been completed

This external chancel wall doesn’t look overly exciting perhaps, but it’s where the chantry was installed in the late fifteenth century and would have been located on this patch of greenery. There would have been a large opening in the wall here and it held the tombs of John Tasburgh and his wife, Margery Tasburgh. The chantry was damaged during the Commonwealth period and later became left open to the elements, with the tombs damaged. The structure was taken down in the 1830s, although the remains of the doorway are visible.

The church has an interesting photo in the chancel which explains a little more about the history of this wall. To the left, out of shot, is the former chantry arch, but visible here is the coursed flint from the twelfth century forming most of the wall, with the higher thirteenth century wall visible at the top of the two windows when the building was heightened.

Looking down the nave of the church, which has been heavily Victorianised inside.

The chancel arch is from the fourteenth century and fortunate that the rood screen is still in place.

It’s a well proportioned chancel.

The open base of the tower is visible at the rear and the font is from the fifteenth century.

Some decorative arrangement in the chancel, likely the base from the chantry tombs.

I have no idea what this hole in the wall near to the door is doing…..

Published in the 1840s, this text by the author of a history of Suffolk is a reminder that theft from churches is nothing new:

“In the year 1819, while the writer was visiting this parish, collecting the materials which form the matter of the present notice, a person of gentlemanly address drove up to St. Peter’s Hall, tenanted by the late Mr. Alden, the then churchwarden, inquiring if the church contained any brass effigies, as he was travelling through the country collecting such records of ancient families, with a view to their cleaning and restoration, promising to return them shortly to their original places. St. Peter’s church afforded nothing to add to his collection, having been already stripped by some earlier iconoclast. The writer remembers that the applicant’s gig-box was half full of brass effigies, which it is vain to hope ever found again their respective matrices. The observation is simply recorded to expose a system of plunder once recklessly pursued, and to warn all churchwardens to repulse applications of a like nature.”