At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Andrew, Bredfield

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Bredfield chancel north side the Bredfield dead 

hungry lion  

Bredfield is one of the pleasant villages west of Woodbridge. I remember cycling through here on late 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; 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 fabulous roof in the porch. Although it was rebuilt by Diocesan architect Richard Phipson in the 1870s, he retained what is effectively 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 this 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, 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.

Phipson was very thorough here, but there are a couple of interesting survivals, most notably a set of brasses to the Farrington family reset on the north wall. Curiously, the children all appear to have only one arm.

Farrington sons Farrington brasses Leonard Farrington Elizabeth Farrington here lyeth

Predating Phipson's restoration is an utterly charming set of four of the Works of Mercy set in a window on the south side of the nave. There is no maker's mark, and Sam Mortlock, an expert in these matters, was unable to identify it.

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.

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.

St Peter is a delightful building, one well-suited to a late summer afternoon, or perhaps a bright spring morning. It is worth crossing the living hell of the A12 from Woodbridge, and then heading on into High Suffolk beyond.

  Farrington daughters

Simon Knott, June 2008

looking east font looking west war memorial organ
works of mercy comfort the dying clothe the naked feed the hungry give water to the thirsty
church expenses pipes AMR IHS  
roof memorial The Good Shepherd The Good Shepherd pulpit

porch hammerbeam roof



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