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The History Of Saint Margaret's Stradishall

A church with 30 acres was recorded in the Domesday Book. The Norman chancel was heightened and lengthened c1250 in the Early English period. The height of the earlier walls is shown by a horizontal "scar" along both sides. The chancel arch, a blocked lancet on the north side, the piscina and south door are all Early English. The border of red trailing vine scroll decoration on the north and the associated drapery on the south wall, are probably part of the same work.

In the early 14th century the two eastern most windows and the east window were replaced in the Decorated style. The east window is of exceptional quality and has reticulated tracery with moulded mullions and inner and outer hood moulds.

The north aisle and tower were added to the nave c1300. In the aisle there are Decorated east and north-west windows and a north doorway. The north-east window is Perpendicular, but set in the earlier Decorated window opening. The tower has a Decorated tower-arch and belfry windows.

At the same time the nave was widened three and a half feet to the south. The south-west corner of this outer wall, can be seen at the junction of the west wall of the nave and south aisle. The south-eastern corner is now hidden by the later Rood Stair turret. This widening of the nave accounts for the fact that the ridge of the nave roof is off centre, to the right, from the apexes of the east window, chancel arch and tower arch, which are all in line.

The south aisle was added to the widened nave c1350. Although both arcades have octagonal piers, the capitals, bases and arches are different. The earlier north arches are pointed and the later south arches are segmental. The south aisle is two and a half feet wider than the north. The doorway is Decorated and the three iron strap hinges with floriated ends on the door are original.

The wooden porch is also 14th century, but most timbers have been replaced, except for the head of the outer arch.

In the late Perpendicular period the nave walls were heightened with six clerestory windows and spanned by a new low-cambered roof with tie-beams. The height of the earlier nave walls can be seen above the clerestory window sills. The outline of the earlier higher roof can be seen outside on the east wall of the tower.

The capitals of the chancel arch were cut back to insert the Rood Screen, the fixings of which can be seen on either side. Parts of the tracery from the upper part of the screen, or loft, are in a frame on the north pier. Other sections were used in 1857 - 8 as window surrounds at the Rectory. It is known that a carpenter, Thomas Gooch or Goche can be linked to a section of transom and window tracery later removed to the Rectory.

Both sections of the base of the screen have elevation squints, although those on the north side are masked by 1857 - 8 tracery. On the south pier is a mass of graffiti including a consecration cross for the screen, smaller crosses, symbols and names.

The external red-brick stair turret was built on the south side in the angle of the chancel and aisle. The chancel arch has a groove either for a tympanum associated with the Rood, or one of the Elizabethan period to frame the Royal Arms and texts.

The font is late Decorated with quatrefoils and transomed windows on the stem. The bowl has ogee two-light windows, flowers and quatrefoils. David Davy's plan in 1831 shows the font under the western arch on the north side. On the wall above is a 17th century painted text from St John, Chapter 3 verses 4 and 5, recording the words of Jesus about the necessity of baptism. During the 1857 - 8 restoration other texts blocks and fresco paintings including St Margaret, the patron saint, were discovered and removed. There are fragments of a St Christopher to the right of the north door. The head, hand and staff of Christopher and the head of the infant Jesus can still be seen.

The Royal Arms over the tower arch have been recently restored. They are dated 1788, but the heraldry and motto show them to be for James I. The pulpit with its coved stem is late Stuart. Several balusters from a 17th century communion rail have been reused on the front of the choir stalls. In 1831 Davy described rails around three sides of the communion table. No doubt they were removed or altered in 1857 - 8.

At the east end of the north aisle is a box pew. Below the east window is a blocked door giving access to the pew, which had an outer and an inner door. The Pew was for Stradishall place and there is still a footpath, through the churchyard, linking the two.

The church was restored by Robert Last, builder and surveyor of Clare, in 1857 - 8. The tower arch was opened up. All the box pews, except that in the north aisle, were replaced with benches. The gallery was removed and the font moved to its present position. The six clerestory windows were all renewed with Bath stone copies of the originals. Two new south windows in the aisle were paid for by the churchwardens. The pre-reformation stone altar mensa was discovered under the aisle floor and moved to its present position on the communion table. The porch was restored and re-roofed.

The north aisle was restored and re-roofed by Detmar Blow in 1914. This work was paid for, as a tablet records, by Thomas Bower of Stradishall Place in memory of his wife Mary Ann (d.1908) and their two sons Richard and Thomas who both died in 1911.

There are four monuments in the chancel by de Carle of Bury St Edmunds, for members of the Rayner family of Stradishall Place. Those on the north are for William (d.1830) and Alice his wife (d.1822); on the south William (d.1845), Frances his wife (d.1835) and their daughters Martha (d.1838) and Maria (d.1840).

Outside, on the south chancel wall, is a monument to Joseph Cook (d.1739 aged 25) and his sister Sarah (d.1740 aged 20) "… leaving to their afflicted parents one consolation; the remembrance of their innocent lives".

Last Modified Friday 21 December 2012