This tiny church is well off the tourist trail and the honeypots of Lavenham and Long Melford. Set in the depths of rural Suffolk, you have to want to come here and a good map helps too. Built on the second highest point in Suffolk, there are lovely views across the surrounding landscape, with a few isolated houses and farms,.
A sign in the church porch suggests the name of Milden comes from the plant ‘Melde’ commonly known as fat hen today. We now regard this as a weed but from Saxon times it was regarded as a valuable food source for both humans and animals, being rich in calcium, iron and vitamin B1.
Set in an old churchyard left as a wild flower meadow, it is reached down a path lined with laburnum trees. We wished we had planned our visit for May when the pendulous yellow flowers would be at their full glory.
It is a small church, a hidden church and a church forgotten by time. There is nothing special about the exterior, with flint built nave, chancel and small bell cote. It still has its Norman south door with a simple zig-zag carving on the arch and a small Norman window in the nave. Originally it would have had a tower, but this was damaged by a storm in the 19thC and was taken down. It was never replaced. The west wall was built with the small bell cot and a porch added, using flints salvaged from the tower. This explains the decorative flint flushwork at the west end; the only place it occurs.
There is aways a sense of excitement and expectation when we open a door and go into a church. St Peter’s didn’t let us down. The sense of timelessness extends into the church, with its whitewashed walls and ceiling and King pin beam rafters. It is a contrast of light and dark with dark varnished pews and light flooding in through the plain glass windows.
There are traces of wall paintings on the south wall. This seems to be decorative rather than theological with red outlined blocks, abstract designs and a frieze with figures on their sides. Under the window is the remains of a consecration cross.
Inside the door is an uncarved square Norman stone font, now standing on later legs. On the west wall is a painted wood Benefice board. This lists gifts from James Alington d1627 and the Reverend William Burkitt, Both made provisions for the poor. The Rector also left money for “the learning of all poor children to read” and buying them Bibles and Catechisms.
The pulpit is 17thC with lovely carved arches on the panelling and candlesticks.
Pews are 19thC apart from four old 16thC benches in the chancel which have been cut down for childrens’ use.
On either side of the three lancet windows in the east end are painted boards with the Ten Commandments.
The tomb of James Alington (of the Benefice board) is on the north wall of the chancel, now looking rather the worse for wear with his feet gone. Above him is his shield.
On the south wall wall of the nave is the monument to John Canham d1772 under a coat of arms with what the guide book describes as four pelicans heads pecking themselves. I thought it was a swan with a coronet – how wrong you can be… He lived with his sister Mary for over 50 years. She is buried under a flagstone in the chancel.
There is nothing special about this church, but perhaps this is part of its appeal. We loved it, hence the high star rating.
There is some road parking along the road by the church. The church is open until dusk although the door handle can be stiff.