At the sign of the Barking lion...

Holy Trinity, Fordley

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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    This church shared a graveyard with Holy Trinity, Middleton; or, at least, those are the customary dedications, but it must be the only instance of two churches with the same dedication being sleeping partners like this. Churchyard sharing isn't that uncommon; it exists elsewhere in Suffolk still at Trimley, at Creeting, where one church has now gone, and in extremis at Pakefield, where the two parishes shared one building with adjoining naves. This situation could easily be sustained, when even a single church might have several Masses going on at the same time; indeed, it might even have advantages. But after the Reformation, when the Church of England took over the English churches and the congregational services of the Book of Common Prayer replaced the devotional worship of the Catholic Church, it became increasingly difficult. Services had to be co-ordinated, and here at Middleton-cum-Fordley the parishioners of both churches complained that the noise made by each others' bells disturbed the preaching of the Word.

The Bishop of Norwich solved the problem by making the two churches share a Rector. Since he couldn't be in two places at one time (a trick that seems to be required of some of today's hard-working Benefice Rectors) the smaller of the two churches quickly fell into disuse, and no trace of it remains today. The area is that which was used for burials in the 19th century. Be aware, if you are coming here to look for deceased ancestors, that this part of the graveyard is now used for grazing sheep, and is marked off by what claims to be an electric fence, although I must confess that I couldn't resist touching it, to no ill-effect.

However, you can see a few souvenirs of Fordley without braving the fence; or the sheep, come to that. Over the years, carved pieces of masonry have been found in the ground that do not appear to have come from the surviving church of Holy Trinity, Middleton. So they probably came from Fordley church. One of them is a stone coffin lid, reused by a 19th century churchwarden, lost after the 1956 fire in Middleton church, and rediscovered a couple of summers ago. You can see all these pieces in the chancel of Middleton.


Simon Knott, July 2010



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