At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Mary, Nedging

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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You can walk here from Bildeston, for the church is just a short distance from that large village, the huge parish church of which signals to Nedging from the next hill to the west. This little church sits on the former Nedging Hall estate, a group of Hall, church and rectory with this most ancient building of the three by the gatehouse. The ninety degree turn in the lane here is a reminder that until the 20th Century the road system fitted in with the Suffolk countryside rather than the other way around.

If you've cycled through the fields and copses of the rolling countryside out to the east to get here, St Mary's neatly clipped churchyard can be a bit startling, a domestic neatness accentuated by the way the headstones have been moved into neat rows against the west wall, and the tombchests appear to have washed up in one corner as if they had drifted there like boats in a high wind. Thus in the middle of the 20th Century was mechanised mowing made easier at the expense of generations of accumulated village history.

The small church that floats on the green expanse was put together over several periods. The doorways tell of the 13th Century church that was replaced firstly by a new chancel in the early 14th Century, and then a few decades later by the nave and tower. John Corder's restoration was late, in the first decade of the 20th Century, late enough to be sympathetic and leave a plain, simple and pleasantly rural ambience which would still welcome the blacksmith and the plough boy if they could travel forward in time to enter it.

There are a few older survivals, for the benches towards the west end of the nave have carved ends. These are mutilated, but enough is recognisable to be asked questions about. Some appear to be towers, with figures protruding from the top. One recalls the towers at Tannington and Kettleburgh. Or could it be a pulpit, like that at Barningham? Others appear to be the mutilated remains of fabulous beasts, for a tail curls tantalisingly, in the manner of some creature from a bestiary.

At the time of the 1851 Census of Religious Worship here, William Edge the rector claimed that, excluding the scholars who had to be there, on average about forty people chose to attend morning service on a Sunday out of a total parish population of some one hundred and eighty. He sought to excuse this by pointing out that only twelve houses were situated within a mile of the church, and that most of the people in the parish lived closer to Naughton church. But in fact, this average of more than twenty per cent of the population was about normal for this part of Suffolk, and in any case a far greater threat to the size of the Reverend Edge's congregation was not Naughton church at all, but the four independent chapels a short walk away down in Bildeston, which on the day of the census attracted an attendance of almost three hundred people between them.


Simon Knott, April 2021

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looking east sanctuary
man in a pulpit five sons of Charles Fane Edge rood stair entrance
font afloat


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