St Mary’s Church

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Date of travel

March, 2014

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St Mary’s Church is a delightful small church reached by a narrow lane off the busy A 140. It is like stepping back into a forgotten world.

The church dates from the C14th/15th. it has a tall square flint tower at the west end with pinnacles and flushwork parapet and buttresses. Walk round to admire the west door way under an arch studded with small flowers. The nave and chancel have been plaster rendered and have crow step ends. The nave has a clerestory and flushwork parapet around the top. A small south chapel has been added beside the porch. The porch is collapsing gently sideways. Inside is a sturdy oak door.

Inside it is a very plain church with simple early C20th pews. The pulpit is C19th. At the back is an organ in the west gallery. The church guide book relates the story of an Evensong which turned into a battle of voices in 1872 between the curate-in-charge who decreed the Magnificat should be spoken and the organist and choir who were determined it should be sung. This was reported in the local paper. The organ is still played occasionally. In the south chapel is a small harmonium.

The nave has a double hammer beam roof although the figures were hacked off the beams either during the Reformation or Commonwealth. Carved figures, many without their heads, survive on the ends of the beams. The chancel roof is a simple wagon beam roof with carved angels on the ends of the shorter beams. On the long beams are carved figures of St Peter, St Paul and the four evangelists, set under a crocketed arch. Between the beams is a double frieze with carved angel heads.

Above the south doorway is the Royal Coat of Arms. The font has lions around the base and angel heads supporting the bowl. Carvings round the bowl include an angel with a shield, a heart pierced by a spear and sword with a crown of thorns, Crucifixion, M monogram, Tudor rose.

There is an C18th parish chest with three locks used for storing documents and valuables.

The chancel contains some of low choir stalls with poppyheads and carved ends. At the east end is a simple altar beneath the east window. Old flags hang from the walls.

On the floor are old memorial slabs. On the north wall is an elaborate marble memorial to Gilbert Mouse who died in 1622 and was the servant of two Lord chancellors. He is buried in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster but bequeathed money to the poor people in his home parish and to maintain the highway. The memorial has a cherub at the bottom with skull, crossbones and hourglass at the top.

The church is no longer used and is looked after by the “Churches Conservation Trust”: and is open daily. There is parking on the road outside the church. It is a lovely old building, and you really do feel time stands still here. The nearest postcode for the church is IP14 5JL. The church is at the end of Church Lane. The grid reference is TM 115601. Stonham Parva can also be called Little Stonham on some maps.

There are more pictures “here.”:

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