At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Mary, Dallinghoo

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Dallinghoo Dallinghoo big mouth strikes again

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Uniquely in East Anglia, Dallinghoo church has its tower at the east end. Is this because it was built back to front? Well, no. What you see now are the remains of a church with a central tower. The chancel has gone, and there never were any transepts. So just the nave survives, with a tower at the eastern end rather than the west. This puts the porch in the right place after all, and as you step through into the body of the nave and look east, you would never notice the difference, except I do not think I could stand in that sanctuary without being conscious of the colossal weight above me.

The inside is bright, neat and thoroughly Anglican. The makeshift chancel beneath the tower is largely 17th century in character and the holy table, chairs and panelling are all of a piece, even though most have been reused from elsewhere. It is probably the best example of a Jacobean chancel in the county. The communion rails are slightly later, but in any case they are put in the shade by the amazing 17th century pulpit in the north aisle. It is the tallest in the county, and dwarfs the huge reading desk in front of it. Carved into its back is a set of royal arms. Now, you might expect them to be Jacobean, probably for Charles I or Charles II, but in fact they are older, and for Henry VIII. Almost certainly, this means that the pulpit was cobbled together using older materials.

Outside in the graveyard are a number of interesting stones, including one from the late 17th Century depicting a shovel, hour glass and pick which must be by the same mason as the similar one a few miles off at Burgh. There is also a very satisfactory grinning King Death on a nearby stone of similar date. Even more striking is the life-size statue of Hope against the north boundary. It commemorates the Walford family, who provided rectors in the middle years of the 19th century. The Reverend Ellis Walford, who was rector at the time of the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, must have been pleased to be able to record a congregation of more than a hundred on the day of the census, a surprisingly high proportion for enthusiastically non-conformist east Suffolk out of the parish population of just 385, especially as Dallinghoo had a large number of Baptists who attended the chapel up the road in Charsfield. But before we congratulate him too much, it should be pointed out that Ellis Walford was one of Suffolk's last pluralist ministers, also having the living of Bucklesham on the other side of Woodbridge, a parish he had left so moribund that no one could be found there to fill in the census return.

Simon Knott, February 2020

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looking east looking west
font pulpit and reading desk chancel G III R
four-way foliage Tudor royal arms (detail) cradle roll

shovel, hourglass and pick King Death

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