At the sign of the Barking lion...

All Saints, Little Bealings

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Little Bealings

Little Bealings Little Bealings late art deco cross and foliage (1939)

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          You don't have to head far out of Ipswich into the wooded hills north-east of the town to find yourself in pleasingly remote and self-contained villages in the valley of the pretty River Fynn. We are not far from the monotonous suburbia of Kesgrave, but the woods close it off, and once you cross the railway line this is a quintessentially rural setting. The pretty church sits on a hillside above the village street and an avenue of limes leads up to one of those south-west towers which are common in the villages around Ipswich.

There is not a great deal to tell you about All Saints. It is not particularly significant in terms of history and architecture, but anyone who has been there will not forget it easily as it is a charming and dignified building which underwent a quietly successful restoration under the eye of William Pattisson in 1851. You step beneath the tower into a plain and simple little country church. The nave is small but light, and the north aisle creates a sense of space and squareness. When David Davy came here in the early 19th Century he found a large stove in the middle of the nave. He also found the pulpit at the back of the church, and the box pews of the time arranged so that they faced it. This was a common arrangement in the preaching houses of the post-Reformation English church, and is similarly documented at Wickhambrook, and at Bramford where the pulpit was in the middle of the south aisle. It was an attempt to break the link between the eastward focus on the altar, and the Catholic sacraments. Of course, the Victorians were to restore this link almost everywhere. But a tantalising glimpse into this earlier liturgical life is given by a surviving bequest of 1513, when one Robert Lawnsweyn left money to paint and gild Our Lady on S side of church according to the previous painting and gilding of the tabernacle.

The font is a typical East Anglian example of the 15th Century of which hundreds survive, but this one is very battered. The 1899 east window, depicting the Crucifixion flanked by Christ at Gethsemane and the Resurrection, was designed by the glass artist AL Moore for Powell & Sons. Otherwise the nave and aisle are filled with natural light from clear windows. In such a quiet spot it is perhaps unusual to find a memorial to the noted 19th Century Anglo-Indian Colvin family, but the merchant James Colvin of the East India Company bought the Grove Estate in Little Bealings on his return from Burma in the 1840s. The most famous of the Colvins remembered here is John Russell Colvin who was Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, and whose death and burial are still a source of controversy. Holed up in the Red Fort at Agra during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, he died of cholera and was buried within the palace on the site of the Peacock Throne, where his tomb remains to this day. His younger brother Edward who also died during the Mutiny is remembered on the memorial here below him. The great east window at Soham in Cambridgeshire also remembers the Colvin family.

On a sunny day it is pleasant to wander around the steep churchyard. The war memorial was designed by WD Caroe and features the figure of St Michael at the top. There's a fair chance you'll find hikers sitting on the bench outside of the south porch, eating their sandwiches in the sunshine and gazing out across the Fynn valley. It seems a fitting thing to happen in this quiet and hospitable place.


Simon Knott, January 2021

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looking east sanctuary
font crucifixion window
Roman soldiers at the Resurrection by AL Moore for Powell & Sons, 1899 St Andrew, St Peter and St John asleep at Gethsemane by AL Moore for Powell & Sons, 1899 two angels by AL Moore for Powell & Sons, 1899
Bengal Civil Service porch


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