At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Andrew, Bredfield

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Bredfield is one of the largish pleasant villages to the north-west of Woodbridge. I remember cycling through here one summer evening in the first year of the millennium, and seeing men and women in grey and white wandering down to the bowling green for a match against another village. Blackbirds were singing, and the sun was low in the sky behind St Andrew, dappling the restless leaves above the churchyard. It was the end of a long day's bike ride, and it felt the perfect place to be.

I'd first come here about five years previously. This was one of the very first churches I visited on my journey around the county. I came into the church to find one of the PCC checking a survey on behalf of the historic buildings commission. They wanted to know if the surviving remnants of the canopy of honour to the rood were still in situ. And so they were - rather faint now, but under the lovely roof you can still make out the IHS and AMR monograms. There's another memorable roof in the porch, a tiny hammerbeam roof of the late 15th century.

You never know what to expect when you step into a church, even if you have been there before, and on another occasion I was surprised to hear a rich tenor voice intoning an old Irish song as I turned the handle and opened the door. He stood under the chancel arch, and the words tumbled and filled the tight little nave, echoing for a split second and then dying swiftly. It was enchanting. I stood still, not wanting to break the spell. He came to the end of the verse, noticed me and the silence fell again like dusty light from the windows. We chatted for a few moments about the church, and then he was gone in a hurry. I don't know who he was.

Diocesan architect Richard Phipson was very thorough here, and the result was a fairly gloomy ritualist interior that spoke more of the end of the 19th Century than any other time. This was alleviated somewhat by a mid-20th Century refurnishing at the hands of Eric Sandon, who lived in the village, and Basil Hatcher, best known for the rebuilding of Chelmondiston church after its destruction by a V2 rocket. And there are a couple of interesting earlier survivals, most notably a set of brasses to the Farrington family reset on the north wall. Unfortunately that have been polished within an inch of their lives, so come and see them while you can. Contemporary with Phipson's restoration is a charming set of four of the Works of Mercy set in a window on the south side of the nave, looking the work of Hardman & Co.

Pressed plate memorials were very popular in the early years of the 20th Century, and there is a good one here to Joseph and Emily Lachlan White depicting angels sounding the last trump as Emily is resurrected from the dead on the Day of Judgment. Good old 17th Century sentiments, and interesting to see them in an Arts and Crafts idiom, probably the work of Powell & Sons.

Bredfield's most famous son was the poet Edward Fitzgerald. Although more usually associated with neighbouring Boulge, where he is buried, he spent his childhood years here. His great friend was the Rector of Bredfield, George Crabbe, the son of another famous poet. Crabbe's memorial is set in the sanctuary wall. But what most people will remember Bredfield for is neither Fitzgerald or Crabbe, but for the elaborate wrought-iron canopy over the village pump, with charming finger-signs to neighbouring villages. It recalls the workshop in the village which produced gates and railings for Big Houses all over East Anglia.

Simon Knott, February 2020

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looking east looking west
Leonard Farrington, 1611 Leonard and Elizabeth Farrington with six sons and two daughters, 1611 Elizabeth Farrington, 1611 two daughters of Leonard and Elizabeth Farrington, 1611
six sons of Leonard and Elizabeth Farrington, 1611 Angels sound the Last Trump for the resurrection of Emily lachlan White on Judgement Day (Powell & Sons? 1908)
Works of Mercy  (Hardman & Co? 1870s) Daniel plays his harp to his flock (Hardman & Co? 1870s) Christ the Good Shepherd (Hardman & Co? 1870s) David fights off a lion (Hardman & Co? 1870s)
Works of Mercy: give food to the hungry (Hardman & Co? 1870s) Works of Mercy: clothe the naked (Hardman & Co? 1870s) Works of Mercy: comfort the sick (Hardman & Co? 1870s) Works of Mercy: give water to the thirsty (Hardman & Co? 1870s)

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