At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Hacheston

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Hacheston: click to enlarge

Hacheston Hacheston priest door Hacheston

golden angel   All Saints sits on the busy road between Framlingham and the A12. Thousands of people pass it every day, without having any idea that it is a treasure house, a box of delights. It is rather undistinguished from the outside, and sits very close to the road, which has cut down beside it. There are really two villages of Hacheston (the first syllable is pronounced hatch), upper and lower. Lower is down on the A12, and the church is in the upper village.

On the north side of the graveyard is a huge mausoleum, as big as a garage. It seems to sulk, being so cut off, for the north side of the church is not the most attractive aspect. One the south side the 16th century south is beautiful, lending a quiet grandeur to what would otherwise be a fairly small church.

There is no south porch. You step directly through the west door into the space beneath the tower,and then into a lovely church, with a patina of age that the Victorians failed to erase. All Saints was the very last stop on William Dowsing's grand wrecking spree of 1644, and he had not run out of enthusiasm or ideas, defacing imagery on the font and, unusually, also taking the roodscreen to task. Presumably, it hadn't been vandalised enough by the Anglican reformers of a century earlier.Since the 1880s restoration, the roodscreen panels have been relocated to the west end of the nave, around the font. The Saints are badly damaged. They appear to have been a set of the Apostles:you can still make out St Jude, St Simon and St James.

There are two excellent windows by the Kempe workshop, and Saints of a later age appear in the one in the east of the chancel, St George and St Martin flanking Christ in Majesty. Back in the nave, another Kempe window depicts the Presentation in the Temple: there is something very tender about the way that the young Mary and the aging Joseph gaze across at Simeon's rapt expression.

Christ in Majesty with St George and St Martin giving thanks Kempe angel
St George Christ in Majesty St Martin
Presentation in the Temple Presentation in the Temple: Mary and Joseph Presentation in the Temple: Simeon, Anna and the Christ child

Every medieval church had its rood, of course; and, although none survive, thanks to the efforts of Edward VI's cronies, some of the tympana to which they were attached have. The Wenhaston Doom, ten miles away, is one of the most famous in England, a richly painted setting that backed the rood. After the Reformation, these tympana were generally whitewashed, and had the royal coat of arms fixed to them, along with a few well-chosen verses to remind the common people who was in charge now. Because of this, and a little ironically under the circumstances, the tympana were generally removed and destroyed by the Victorian restorers as not being medieval enough. Only a few survive; Hacheston's doesn't, but the timbers that supported it are still in place above the rood beam, an unusual survival. The beam itself is one of Suffolk's finest.

Dowsing is blamed for a lot, but most of the damage done to our medieval churches occured 100 years before he went on his merry way. His was essentially a mopping up operation. In the 1540s, the hooligan gangs of the Reformation vanguard went on their drunken sprees. Their main targets were images of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. By Dowsing's time, no statue of a saint survived in situ anywhere in Suffolk. Most were destroyed; some were sold abroad for a quick and easy profit. A few, however, were rescued and hidden, often buried in the ground, or beneath floorboards. During the Victorian restorations, several came to light, most famously the Journey of the Magi at Long Melford. There is one here, too, set in the wall of the south aisle.

It shows St Thomas touching the wounds of Christ, exquisite in alabaster. The person who made it in 14th century England could not have begun to imagine how unusual it would one day be.

  Christ and St Thomas

Simon Knott, June 2008

looking east looking east font medieval benches
Saint St Jude St James St Simon window pulpit
this woman Tabitha arise Tabitha arise





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