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

The History Of Saint Mary's Lidgate

What To See Inside The Church

The interior of St. Mary's is refreshingly light and is full of craftsmanship of several periods. Work of the 19th and 20th centuries takes its place alongside that of past ages; this is of the highest quality and it-blends well with the older features. The atmosphere of antiquity is enhanced by the brick floors and it soon becomes clear that there is a gentle slope upwards towards the east. Above all, the building feels greatly lived-in and prayed-in.

Unusually, there is no tower arch (suggesting that the nave may well be much earlier than the tower), but instead a western doorway to the tower base. This has a handsome continuously-moulded 14th century arch and it contains its original mediaeval door.

The aisles are divided from the nave by arcades of four bays, with moulded capitals and bases to their octagonal piers. It is in the stonework of these piers that the most interesting of the graffiti (which may be seen in several parts of the church) appears. One needs to spend time carefully hunting out these random "doodlings" of amateur Lidgate artists and autograph-writers! On the south arcade piers are many autographs - some as early as the 16th century. On one north arcade pier are four windmills (clearly the favourite subject of one "artist"); another has a line of music and some human faced. A further collection of graffiti may be seen in the lambs of the west doorway, under the tower - these are mostly initials and some are dated 17th century.

The plain octagonal (and probably early 15th century) font is made of the chalky stone known as clunch - and even here the graffiti carvers have been at work. It is crowned by a small octagonal font cover which is also of considerable age.

The organ stands in the south-west corner. It is a two manual and pedal instrument by Hill, Norman & Beard, with eight speaking stops, and was installed in 1924. Note also near the entrance the oil painting of the exterior by Mr. D. Redhead of Wickhambrook and the aerial photograph of the church and its precincts.

The nave is crowned by a handsome roof of c.1895, with tiebeams and collar beams and traceried woodwork between them. Suspended from one of the tiebeams is a magnificent wrought-iron and brass candelabra this superb piece of craftsmanship in metal has accommodation for 24 candles.

The benches of the nave and aisles are interesting. The main blocks of benches in the nave are 15th century, with plain straight-topped ends. One on the north side of the centre aisle has a beautiful traceried end. The benches at the west end of the nave and those in the south aisle were made in 1895 to match the mediaeval ores, The north aisle has a set of small 16th century benches with pretty linenfold panelling in their ends.

The pulpit was probably made about 1630 and has characteristic carved motifs of this period. It now has a square base of re-used 17th century woodwork and it has clearly been altered at some time; probably it was originally a two or three-decker arrangement. More 17th century panelling may be seen in a cupboard in the vestry.

The north-east vestry enclosure (which was originally a chapel) is surrounded by a beautiful 15th century parclose screen, with traceried openings. Its embattled parapets are embellished with quatrefoils and tiny two-light openings.

Beneath the chancel arch stands the 15th century rood screen. This fine piece of mediaeval woodcarving has three cinquefoil-headed openings each side of a wide entrance arch with a trefoil, ogee shaped sub-cusped top. Its base was restored and doors added in 1871. To the south of the screen is the rood-loft staircase, which gave access to a gallery, or loft, which surmounted the screen before the Reformation, along which it was possible to walk in order to tend the many candles which burned before the great Rood (Christ crucified, and flanked by His Mother and St. John), which towered above the screen and loft.

As the plaque on the wall nearby records, the south parclose screen was given in 1934, when the south chapel was restored. The screen is a very worthy piece of 20th century craftsmanship. Note the castle and hound in the spandrels of its entrance arch, also its rich cornice at the top, which ·is embellished with vines. The chapel which it encloses provides an intimate venue for small services. There was an altar here in mediaeval times, as may be seen by the cinquefoil-headed piscina niche in the south wall. Note also the framed Diocesan Mothers Union banner, embroidered with St. Christopher, also the fine altar cross and candlesticks, of bronzed copper and silver.

The lectern, also dating from the 1930s, is also a good piece of 20th century workmanship. The chancel is long and spacious. It was restored in 1853 and 1863, of which period are its open timber roof and the choir stalls. The panelled communion rails date from 1934, as does the high altar, which is adorned with riddel-posts surmounted by angels, in the Old English, or "Sarun" tradition. The kneeler for the communicants is colourful work of recent times, whilst the chair in the sanctuary is 17th century.

In the sanctuary wall to the south of the altar is a trefoil-headed piscina niche, with circular shafts each side, dating from the 13th century, when the chancel was first built. Into the piscina drain was poured the water from the washing of the priest's hands and the Communion vessels at the Eucharist. The tiny ogee-headed recess to the west of it may also have been a piscina, because it has a tiny hole in its base, which may have served as a drain. In the north wall of the sanctuary is a double aumbry, (or cupboards) in which the Communion vessels may have been stored.

Several windows in the church contain colourful stained glass. In the tops of some of the aisle windows are very scanty fragments of their original 14th century glass. The east window of the south aisle, showing the Risen Christ with the women and the two Apostles at the tomb, is a memorial to Edith Kerry, who died in 1878. It is thought that the glass may well be by the renowned firm of Clayton & Bell. The lancet window in the chancel, showing the Crucifixion, with Our Lord's burial below and the Resurrection above, is definitely an early and interesting example of Clayton & Bell's work. It commemorates Nathaniel Care, who died in 1861. The chancel east window shows the Risen Christ with His Mother and St. John. It was placed here in 1853 and a stained glass expert believes it to be the work of William Miller of London.

Last Modified Sunday 10 June 2012