At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Easton

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Easton Easton Easton

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Almost every Suffolk child knows Easton, for here is Easton Farm Park, beloved of school trips and Sunday family outings. At the farm, you get to see cows milked, sheep shorn and horses shoed, mostly in the old ways, a remembrance of times past. Of particular interest are the dairy and the forge, both conjuring up something of what it must have been like to live on a large Suffolk estate a century ago.The Farm Park is on the road to Letheringham, a wild, remote place, but Easton itself is urbane and polite.

Even if you don't have children, you might still know of Easton for the 18th century crinkle-crankle wall which surrounds the former estate of the Dukes of Hamilton, and their house, Easton Hall. Norman Scarfe tells me that the wall is the longest of its kind in the world. The Hall itself was demolished in the 1920s, and shipped off to America to be rebuilt on a ranch. The Farm Park was the Hall farm, and the estate's pack of hounds is still housed in the village, although of course these days they must do without foxes. In addition, the wall goes right up to the church, so that no ordinary folk needed to see the Hamiltons on their way to and from Divine Service. It surrounds three sides of the graveyard.

All Saints sits on a mound, evidence of an early foundation, and you climb to the south porch. There is a north porch, too, but that was for the exclusive use of the Hall. Like so many in this part of the world, this is a 13th century church extensively refurbished two centuries later. Symptomatic of this is the octagonal 15th century belfry, familiar from several Suffolk round towers, but here built on to a square base of 200 years earlier.

There is no chancel arch, the nave and chancel being continuous as is common in east Suffolk. The interior is essentially a 19th century refurbishment, although the pew set is pre-Victorian, dating from the Regency period. The dark wood and gentle cinema curves is a reminder of how the period was to influence Jazz Modern and Art Deco with its neo-classical clean lines, an understandable reaction to the stifling late Victorianism which Art Nouveau never really escaped. To see them, you might almost detect the 1930s hand of Diocesan architect Monro Cautley, but it predates his work by more than a hundred years.

14th Century glass is not common in Suffolk, but a small panel depicting St Helen is set in one of the upper lights in contemporary tracery. A nave window depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi is by Hardman & Co. There is a beautiful Annunciation window by M Farrar Bell of 1964 for Susan Carrie Stone, who died in 1962. Her ashes lie at Easton, the simple inscription reads.

Opposite it is another simple modern window, for Phyllis Hill who died in 1965. It illustrates verses from the Benedicite. A poppy and a cornflower are at the heart of irregular roundels depicting the sun and alpha on one side, and the moon and omega on the other. It is by Andrew Anderson.

There are of course memorials of the Dukes of Hamilton here, and of their predecessors the Earls of Rochford. But their predecessors at the Hall, the Wingfields, thought so highly of themselves in the 17th century that they actually had their family pews built up in the sanctuary. These are quite extraordinary objects, one either side, quite unlike anything else in Suffolk. Mortlock thinks that they were put there during the Commonwealth period, which makes you wonder what was going on between. Perhaps there is a case for them being slightly earlier, as the need to be close to the altar would be in keeping with Laudian sacramentalism.

There are brasses, and no less than nine hatchments for all three families displayed in the chancel. Taken together with with the pews there would be no doubt who was in charge around here. So, yet another snapshot of life in a Suffolk village in years gone by.

Simon Knott, January 2020

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looking east looking west
Wingfield pew royal arms Wingfield pew
Annunciation (Michael Farrar-Bell, 1964) Adoration of the Magi (Hardman & Co) Adoration of the Shepherds and Magi (detail, Hardman & Co) Adoration of the Shepherds (Hardman & Co) St Helen (14th Century)
Benedicite (detail, Andrew Anderson, 1965) Annunciation by M Farrar Bell, 1964 Benedicite (detail, Andrew Anderson, 1965)
Here lies a NASSAU - Honour owns the name and GEORGE prefix's awakens friendship's claim (1823) war memorial Here rests within this solitary tomb the ashes of the great and good (1830)

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