CHURCH GUIDE  

ST. MARY THE VIRGIN
Blundeston

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
There has been a church in Blundeston village, which Charles Dickens used as the scene for the opening chapters of DAVID COPPERFIELD, since St. Fursey, an Irish Missionary, first preached Christianity in these parts in the 7th century. Nothing remains of the original church but in c.988 the present flint tower was constructed and about a century later a stone church was built on to the tower. Of the Norman church only the north doorway and font remain. A larger building replaced the Norman church in the 14th century. The Nave of this is still intact, but it has since been enriched with 15th century woodwork and window tracery. During 1981/2 the Youth Opportunities Programme provided the labour to decorate the Church and construct the arched lamp holder over the churchyard gates. During 1985 the Nave was equipped with underfloor heating and the area in front of the screen rearranged to concentrate worship among the people. To supplement this heating overhead heaters were installed in 1998.

POINTS OF INTEREST

FONT Is Norman and originally square the corners and lips were cut off in the 15th century to bring it into the prevailing style of octagonal fonts. The base is recent.

ALTAR OF ST. ANDREW standing against the North doorway is a reminder that the neighbouring church of St. Andrew, Flixton was destroyed in a gale in 1705 and never repaired. The remains are still visible. The two benefices have been united since 1724. The panelling behind the altar was constructed from redundant oak pews in 1985. To the left and right of the altar are standing stone memorials, originally set in the floor nearby, where others remain and in other parts of the church.

TOWER ARCH distinctly Saxon in style but dating from the Norman period is the oldest feature of the interior. The arch was sympathetically closed in 2001 to provide the doorway to the new toilet which was installed then. The sink unit and cupboards were built at the same time.

SQUINT a small round opening to the right of the tower arch is an unusual feature but is repeated in the neighbouring church of Lound in the corresponding position. Its' original purpose remains a matter for debate.

VESTRY to the left of the tower entrance was built in 1985 incorporating 19th century oak panels and frets from former pews.

PEWS all in oak, date from 1850's in all probability, when the church was extensively restored, and are a rare example of the Victorians being sensitive to medieval work, in that they fitted them to the surviving 14th Cent. Poppy heads (from French; pouppet - a doll) still to be seen nearest the walls. They also provided new poppy heads of a similar style nearest the gangway. No two heads are alike. The only complete 14th Cent. pews are to be found alongside the walls nearest the screen. walls nearest the screen.

WINDOWS in the Nave date from 15th cent. The glass in those of the South wall was badly damaged by enemy action 1939-45, while some remnants of early English painted glass can be seen in two windows in the N. wall.

LEDGES
in the S. wall were made for holding statues of the saints and these include St. Francis and St. Mary Magdalene, also Our Lady of Walsingham.

CEILING is late Victorian timber barrel-vault and rest on 14th cent. corbels.

COBELSR take the form of heads of kings and queens. Those nearest the chancel are thought to be Henry II and his Queen, Matilda, and those in the middle King Edmund of East Anglia and his Queen.

NAVE ALTAR Communion Table of 1613 is made of oak but has been fitted more recently with a mensa of Indian Teak. It is the most important item in the church being the place where the Faithful gather week by week to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the Church's most important act of worship.

HOUSELLING BENCHES (from the Anglo-Saxon word for Communion) made in 1928 are copies of the medieval equivalent of Communion rails which were not known before 17th Cent.

PULPIT oak, date 1886, octagonal.


PRIEST'S STOOL AND DAIS were constructed in 1985 from old pew timber.


ROOD SCREEN c. 1490 is identical in design to that found at the neighbouring church of Somerleyton, but a bay wider on each side. The lower panels of screens are often painted with saints, but here with the Angels of the Passion, now badly faded A later and more complete version of this theme is found only in Suffolk at Hitcham. The angels wear white albs and amices with red apparels and would have held the implements of Christ's Passion. would have held the implements of Christ's Passion. The 4th angel from the left can be seen with the lance that pierced the side of Christ. The scroll above their heads would have read Passio Christi Salvatoris. The screen itself shows signs of more recent work, notably the coving which masks the ancient beam on which the ROOD or crucifix would have stood in ancient times. The present rood dates from 1928.


CHANCEL was rebuilt in 1851 from which time daters the oak panelling and choir stalls.


MEMORIALS are to be found on the walls and set in the floor, including an ancient sarcophagus lid marked with a sword, the sign of a male burial. In the sanctuary floor is to be found the memorial to Revd. Gregory Clarke who founded the Blundeston School 1726, and two brasses of the Sydnor family of 17th cent. There is also a 19th cent. brass.
 

PISCINA for cleaning sacred vessels in S. wall of 15th cent. with ogee arch over.


SANCTUARY contains the High Altar of 1928 standing on the base of the 14th cent. altar and is of identical measurements.. Note the gilded angels holding torches on the riddel posts. This is the traditional arrangement for English Altars dating from Saxon times. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle in the middle of the altar for the communion of the sick.


WEDDING KNEELER. This was stitched by the Churchwardens to mark the new Millenium, the work was funded by Lord Somerleyton whose daughter Alicia was married in this Church.

He is not here, he is risen (picture copyright suffolkchurches.co.uk)

BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE CHURCH

Remember that as well as being a place of historical interest, this is foremost a place of worship, the House of God. We invite you to sign your name in the visitor's book at the back of the church.
 

BY THE CHURCH DOOR........

THE HOLY WATER STOUP, a common feature in ancient churches, is still in use today. A note explaining its use hangs beside it.

GROTESQUE HEAD beneath the stoup is Norman and looks to have been a fountain head.

COAT OF ARMS above the door is that of Charles II and erected on the restoration of the Monarchy in the year shown.
In the Church PLATE the oldest item is a Communion Cup with lid dating from 1645. There is also a BIBLE of 1701

OUTSIDE THE CHURCH.

MAIN DOOR is recent but the strap hinges and 14th cent. lock remain. Note the Norman shafts in the doorway re-used upside down.

PORCH windows have examples of 17th cent. painted Flemish Glass. Note Physician with glasses.

SUNDIAL 1993 replaces the 17th cent. one mentioned by Dickens, which had become unsafe, and a 1983 model installed upside down!

TOWER c 988 is higher than originally built and contains numerous Saxon/Norman openings, some of them blocked up. There are two bells, one of 1670, the other from Flixton of 1662. The bells were overhauled and restored in 2005 with funds from the Treasurers' sponsored Christmas day swim. The tower is not in the middle of the west wall. When the nave was widened in the 14th cent. the north wall was retained and the the new south wall built further away. Originally, the Tower would have been no higher than the topmost course of round-arched openings (approximately level with the present ridge of the Nave). The four Early English openings above date the topmost section to 14th century.

SQUINT - exterior to north of tower in west wall.

NORTH DOORWAY - note simple Norman rounded arch.

FONT - beside Priest's door on south side of chancel, is Norman and came from Flixton.

SCRATCH DIALS - two are to be found on the buttress nearest the Porch, rather overgrown with lichen.

STONE CROSS on the East gable end was carved and erected in 2006 with funds from the Treasurers sponsored Bell ringing on Christmas Day 2005.

PORCH GATES bear the emblems of Our Lady and St. Andrew, the patron saints of the church.

WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED YOUR VISIT to Blundeston Church and have found something in it of interest and beauty and that is has spoken to you of God's abiding presence. God bless you on your way.

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