At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Peter and St Paul, Little Livermere

At the sign of the Barking lion...

home index e-mail what's new? - a journey through the churches of Suffolk

Little Livermere: A Suffolk Pastorale

ruin ruin ruin

keep out   Cycling through the mist of a winter morning, I found myself in a land of pigs. One of the big differences between my previous trip around Suffolk nearly ten years ago and the same journey today is how patterns of farming have changed. Whether this is as a result of increasing supermarket domination of food markets, the legacy of foot and mouth, or government policy, I do not know. But west Suffolk has become pig country above all else.

I stopped on the back road between Ampton and Little Livermere, and the pigs came over to watch me take a photograph of this poor, unloved church, one of three on the edge of Ampton Water.

Hardly anyone lives in this parish, and the church was derelicted in the early part of the 20th century; Cautley says that we thereby lost 'a delightful example of Strawberry Hill Gothick'. Quite frankly, this is hard to tell, now. What remains is certainly largely 18th century, although there is some evidence that the nave was Norman, as at near neighbour Great Livermere.

The communion rails, which were rescued and can now be seen at Little Saxham, are among the finest 18th century church furnishings in the county. The tower was heightened to provide a 'view' from Ampton Hall, and seems overtall for the scar of the former roofline. But the most striking thing about St Peter and St Paul is the way the elder trees boil out of the nave - a quite dramatic, if not forbidding, prospect. The tower is weather-beaten, and will, presumably, one day collapse. This church is the most forlorn of all Suffolk's ruined churches, partly because so much of it survives, but also its situation.

Another change from my last visit is that you can no longer approach the church. Back in 2000, I had cheerfully cycled up the track to the farm, and then stood on the fence to take a photograph. Today, there is a sign up on the top road warning you that this is Private Property, and you should Keep Out. Probably, the residents of the farm have got fed up with people going to look at the ruin, and quite possibly this is my fault. Still, I didn't have a 300mm lens eight years ago, and I do now, so I didn't bother to moan and curse too loudly or for too long.

There is a sense that, at Stanton St John and the old Abbey at Bury, some effort is going in to keeping the remains standing. But here, the windswept, overgrown churchyard beyond the dismal farmhouse and barbed-wired paddock suggest that no one has cared much about this building for a very long time. Ironically, the dedication of St Peter and St Paul is shared with some of Suffolk's greatest churches, including Eye, Aldeburgh and Lavenham.

This is, perhaps, a reminder of what might have been, given different circumstances. A quite different prospect to the trim church at Great Livermere, less than a mile away.


Simon Knott, 2000, updated 2008


Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site