At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Easton

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Easton Easton Easton
 Easton Easton 

Annunciation by M Farrar Bell, 1964   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. 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. Inside, this 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, 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.

One of the finest features of the nave post-dates Cautley. This is the beatiful 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 beautiful, 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.

Benedicite: sun Benedicite: sun and moon Benedicite window Benedicite: moon
Annunciation Annunciation: her ashes lie at Easton Annunciation: Mary Annunciation: Gabriel Annunciation: Mary 

On an occasion I visited about ten years ago, I stepped into the church to find a lad playing A Whiter Shade of Pale on the organ, as if in a re-enactment of that scene in The Commitments. We fell to chatting; he was home from university where he had become a Buddhist, but still loved to come and play the organ here. Returning five years later, I found the church being used for an exhibition of photographs taken by local school children. This was not intrusive, and it seemed to demonstrate again that this church is a much-loved and well-used place by local people.

There are 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.

No less than nine hatchments for all three families are displayed in the chancel; combined 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.
  M Farrar Bell 1964

Simon Knott, June 2008, updated October 2016

looking east chancel family pew
Adoration Adoration: Magi Adoration: Virgin and child Adoration: shepherds
memorial font looking west
royal arms war memorial

relict Zillah senoir (sic) 

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