At the sign of the Barking lion...

Holy Trinity, Bungay

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Bungay Holy Trinity

Bungay Holy Trinity

The young Christ preaching in the Temple   We are up in the north of the county, on the River Waveney, which forms the county boundary with Norfolk. The river winds lazily through water meadows before gathering strength and pouring out into the north sea at Lowestoft. Long before it gets there it passes through Bungay, and Bungay is one of East Anglia's loveliest small towns, the non-identical twin of the larger and busier Beccles, six miles down the valley. It actually shares much of its character with Norfolk towns like Wymondham, but don't tell anyone in Bungay this. Like all inhabitants of border towns, Bungay people are militant Suffolkers, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the two northern suburbs of Earsham and Ditchingham are,whisper it, in Norfolk.

This was an important place in the Middle Ages. Bungay's strategic position in a loop of the Waveney meant it became the site for Hugh Bigod's castle, and it was the castle which determined the layout of the modern town. The main shopping street follows the line of the old defences. On that side, old fashioned stores, pubs, hotels. On the other, three churches, two of them remarkable. The one that isn't remarkable is this one, Holy Trinity, but to be fair it is still a grand building, instantly likeable, full of urban confidence.

Bungay and Sudbury were the only medieval Suffolk towns outside of Bury and Ipswich to be divided into parishes. Bungay retained some importance up into the modern era, the river being navigable to sea-going vessels until the 1930s, an extraordinary thought when you see the weed-choked and meandering Waveney downstream to the east of the town. And of course for many people Bungay is synonymous with book-printing, the main town industry until the start of the 21st Century.

I said elsewhere on this site that St Peter, Gunton, is the only urban round-towered church in Suffolk, sitting as it does within the Lowestoft conurbation. Technically, I suppose, Bungay is too small to be considered urban, but Holy Trinity feels like a civic church, perhaps as a consequence of its considerable 19th century restoration under the hands of, firstly, JD Botwright and then Thomas Jekyll. From the High Street, you walk through the graveyard of St Mary, across the road, into that of Holy Trinity. The round tower greets you here, and so does Jekyll's castellated porch of 1860. His also the adjacent stair turret, also castellated. The tower top had been rebuilt in the 18th century.

One thing you might miss inside the porch unless you look for it is a small plaque low down on the door. It says Here the Fire was Stayed 1688, and commemorates the great Bungay fire, which gutted and calcified neighbouring St Mary. Apparently, the door bore the scorch marks until it was replaced in the late 19th century. An earlier fire in the 1550s had destroyed the chancel here, the ruins of it being cleared away in the early 18th Century. A new sanctuary was laid out in the 1920s to the design of F E Howard, the austere triumphalism typical of that decade and that architect. Indeed, the whole interior has a feel of the period. The 1920s and 1930s glass of Powell & Sons in the south aisle, as you might expect, fits in perfectly. Happily, Howard left the glass of the east window clear.

There are a few quirky curiosities. Glass figures in the north side of the nave depict the young Christ and the the young David, with the legend A Thankoffering from the Infant Sunday School. They are likely to be contemporary with the building of the new chancel.

At the west end of the aisle is one of Suffolk's few 18th century fonts, not too dissimilar from the one across the road at St Mary. The pulpit is a famous example of mid-16th century work, during the ferment of the Elizabethan Reformation. A great delight just to the east of it is the monument to Thomas and Catherine Wilson by Thomas Scheemakers, which features a gorgeous cherub. The church also has a couple of pre-Reformation brasses - nothing spectacular, but one is to a former Prioress of the Priory of God and the Holy Cross over the way, the ruins of which survive in the graveyard of St Mary. There are also a couple of apparent image niches in the south aisle arcade. When time comes to leave, follow the instructions on the south door carefully - pull the door towards you with your left hand & twist the latch to your left with your right hand. Got that?

Like all good civic churches, Holy Trinity seems to be kept open, an oasis of peace in a busy little place. Holy Trinity is not charming, but has a peaceful elegance about it that will calm the racing heart; a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc perhaps, in contrast to the exotic cocktail of
St Edmund around the corner.
  to the Glory of God

Simon Knott, August 2016

from the south door looking east south aisle chapel looking west
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us O Timothy keep that which is committed to thy trust Fight the good fight of Faith From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures
St Paul Timothy Eunice Nativity Infant Christ and watching lamb Young Christ preaching in the Temple
Learn of me David St Paul, Timothy and Eunice the young Christ preaching in the Temple weeping cherub with extinguished torch leaning on an urn
A Thankoffering from the Infant Sunday School font pull the door towards you with your left hand & twist the latch to your left with your right hand



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