At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Bartholomew, Groton

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Groton Groton

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This sturdy little church sits on a prominent hilltop site above the large village of Boxford in its own lovely little village not far from the Fox and Hounds pub. Not, perhaps, a place where very much happens nowadays, but Groton parish was the birthplace of John Winthrop, founder of the city of Boston, and first governor of the state of Massachusetts. Winthrop was the leader of the disillusioned puritans who fled England during the reign of Charles I. The Winthrops rediscovered their Groton roots in the 19th Century, paid for an enthusiastic restoration and have since kept a weather eye on the place.

St Bartholomew is not far from some of Suffolk's most famous and important churches, but it keeps itself quietly to itself, and thanks perhaps to its interest for American visitors it is in a good state of repair. What you see externally is essentially 15th Century, with the aisles and clerestory you would expect in Suffolk at this date, although once inside the narrow aisles create a sense of a less open space. As you might expect, the interior is mostly of the 19th and 20th Centuries, but the soft Suffolk pink of the walls ameliorates any possible urban feel. Different ecclesiological fashions leave evidence of their enthusiasms, and no doubt the stained glass and particularly the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the north aisle niche would have the Winthrops spinning in their puritan graves.

The glass is interesting. The east window, an 1875 memorial to John Winthrop, is by Daniel Bell, older brother of the more famous John Clement Bell of Clayton & Bell. Bell had worked for his brother's firm, but by the time of this window was working independently. It depicts Moses handing down the Law and St Paul addressing the Church of Ephesus and records that John Winthrop was Lord of the Manor of Groton 1618, first Governor of Massachusetts and Founder of Boston in New England 1630. It was paid for by John Winthrop's descendant Robert Winthrop. On the south side of the chancel, the scene of Faith and Charity is signed by James Cameron of Wigmore Street, London. In the south aisle, glass by the O'Connors in a reasonably successful late medieval style depicts two angels in memory of John Winthrop's two wives.

Moses and St Paul explain the Law (Daniel Bell, 1875) Faith and Charity (James Cameron, 1883) two angels (O'Connors, 1878)

An interesting record of imperial adventures survives on the wall plaque to Alexander Hogg, a purser in the Royal Navy, who died at neighbouring Boxford in 1828. He not only served under Captain Cook on his last voyage but also under Lord Nelson at Aboukir, Copenhagen, etc. And St Bartholomew is not without its earlier survivals, and a pleasing one is the 1562 brass to John Winthrop's grandfather Adam Winthrop. Still in the lettering style of a few decades earlier but in the language of the newly protestant church, it records that here lyeth Master Adam Winthrop Lorde and Patron of Groton whiche departed owt of this worlde the IXth daye of November in the yere of owre Lorde God MCCCCCLXII. The brass, like many, was stolen by a collector at some point in the 17th or 18th Century and came into the possession of the Winthrop family in America, but it was returned to the church in 1878, as the plaque beneath it records. And St Bartholomew has one more surprise up its sleeve. Outside is Suffolk's oldest churchyard memorial, to the Kedbyes. It dates from 1598, but the inscription is now all but illegible.

Simon Knott, August 2019

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looking east chancel font and tower arch
BVM and child pulpit served under Captain Cook during his last voyage, Lord Nelson at Aboukir, Copenhagen, etc lights
here lyeth Master Adam Winthrop Lorde and Patron of Groton whiche departed owt of this worlde the IXth daye of November in the yere of owre Lorde God MCCCCLXII


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