Bansfield BeneficeDiocese of St Edmundbury & IpswichChurch of England Benefice Scenes Benefice Scenes Benefice Scenes Benefice Scenes

The History Of All Saints' Stansfield

The Nave

The late C14 nave is wide and without aisles. Opposite the door there was a medieval fresco of St Christopher, it was visible in the 1860s but it is now covered over , as are other wall paintings. Recent investigation before the redecoration in 1995 shows that the paintings are fragmentary, most of the damaged being caused by Victorian replastering. There is a second holy water stoup just inside the door on the right.

The basic structure of the roof is early C16 very much restored in the 1886s when the roof covering was found to be in such a state of decay that it was decided to construct a new one. The architect was a Mr St Aubyn of the Temple, London. The roof was built of oak covered in lead with the rafters handsomely carved.. The tie beams are arch-braced and cambered. In a good light a pair of binoculars shows that the spandrels have carvings:- On the North side the first spandrel after the chancel arch has a maid peering from the top of a castle and a dragon menacing her, a similar carving occurs in Cavendish Church; while in the same position on the South side another dragon is wielding a large pair of tongs. Over the South door on the East side of the spandrel there is a labourer with a selection of tools and on the opposite North side there is a group of villagers. The black staining makes it difficult to see these carvings in poor light.

In the SE corner of the nave is a late C16 holy table which may well once have been the altar table. It is in the position of the medieval guild altar of St Mary. Also in this corner is a little piscina. In old terriers the Rector had to pay an annual rent of two pence to the King for a chantry house granted to the then Rector at the time of the dissolution This chantry house may have been part of the village guild of St Mary. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Edwardian and was given by Dora and Eva Webling and Mabel Hardy in memory of Percy Charles Alfred Webling, Rector and author.

Until the restoration of the Church in the 1880s the pulpit was here, this can be seen in the old photograph behind the font. The pulpit is early 17th century and has three groups of panels with excellent examples of Jacobean wood carving; the base and the steps are Victorian and are probably contemporary with the pews, the new desks and choir stalls which date from 1886. The pulpit closely resembles that at Somerton and Boxted; for nearly two hundred years from the middle of the seventeenth century until the middle of the nineteenth century the Rector of this Parish lived at Somerton and had a curate to look after Stansfield.

Behind the pulpit a new iron door has been inserted into the rood stair, the old photograph referred to above shows that before the 1880s restoration the doorway was blocked up. Previously it had opened into the chancel. At some stage the upper door that led to the rood screen has also been blocked off, but its position can still be seen.

The low screen which separates the nave from the chancel has the base part of the C15 rood screen built into a Victorian frame which also has high quality carving. Some delicate carving which probably formed the upper part of the rood screen has been fixed to the front of the front row of pews.

In the N nave windows there are traces of medieval glass, a 15C Trinity emblem and the rebus of Oakham showing an oak tree and the word HAM. Christopher Oakham was Sacrist of the Abbey of St Edmund's Bury from 1497 - 1505. The other arms are believed to be the arms of Elves of Stoke and of Barker of Bocking Hall, Braintree. At the West end of the nave is the mutilated late C13 font on a Victorian base. The single manual organ was built by Messrs Henry Jones and Sons of South Kensington and was dedicated in 1904, originally it was hand pumped by a handle on the left side.

The Tower

The tower dates from around 1380. The floor of the ringing chamber is unusual and well carved. There was another floor between this and ground level, the sockets where the beams were inserted can be seen by the entry to the vestry. When the light is at the right angle a large number of graffiti can be seen carved into the soft stone of the pillars and of the west window. Whether this floor with its balustrade facing the nave was used for the Church musicians or for the bell ringers is not known.

The bells are most unusual being one of the few rings, perhaps the only ring, originally cast during the Commonwealth period. The ring of five were cast by Miles Gray, the younger, the treble was recast by Thomas Gardiner of Sudbury in 1730 and, hopelessly cracked they were all recast in 1896 by Meares and Stainbank. When the bells were lowered for the recasting the fourth bell was found to be roughly engraved "Master William Abbott, of London, grocer, gave towards this bell xx nobles, 1652." The artist John Piper made an engraving which is said to be of the west side of the tower seen from the outside.

The Chancel

The chancel which dates from 1330 has consecration crosses on the East wall and in the south wall there is a 14th century piscina with a pierced tracery canopy. Nearby is a fine early 14th century iron bound chest which probably owes its survival to the 17th century legs which raised the chest off the floor and saved it from rot. The plain windows contain remnants of medieval glass which were found in a chest when the Rev'd Phipps arrived at the Church in 1863 and cost £14 . 16s 11d. When the medieval glass was broken is not known. In August 1641 the House of Commons published an order for taking away scandalous pictures out of Churches. In 1642 the Earl of Manchester received a commission as General of the Eastern Counties and issued a warrant to William Dowsing to act. Dowsing was at Sudbury on January 6th 1643 and also at Clare, Haverhill, Hundon, Wixoe and Withersfield. At Glemsford on Feb 26th, and at Boxted and Stanstead on April 15th. There is no mention in his diary of a visit to Stansfield, Denston or Hawkedon but these parishes may have been visited by his deputies, possibly Thomas Westhorp of Hundon or Francis Verden.

In 1975 Miss Peck said that Amos Cricke dug some lead bullets out of the altar in the Church with his penknife; were they part of the destruction of the medieval glass? The East window is a modern insertion; the Victorian window in memory of the Rev'd Phipps has a portrait of the Rector as Saint Peter looking up at Christ.

Last Modified Thursday 05 May 2011