This dear little
building is so far from a major road that you will not
come across it, except by accident. It sits beside a tiny
lane between Woolpit and Stowmarket, a lane so narrow
that it seems designed for horses and bikes more than
This is a most unusual church, in several ways the most
unusual in all of Suffolk. For a start, there is that
dedication. King Charles I, as any schoolboy will tell
you, was the monarch beheaded by the State in 1649. After
the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, his memory,
especially among Anglicans, was imbued with the status of
a Martyr, and, although those deeply protestant times
precluded this being sanctified or otherwise formalised
in any way, several churches were erected in his name.
Five in all England survive, and this is one of them.
The church is unusual in another way, for it is what is
known as a donative, a church building erected by a
landowner, under his patronage, and with the living in
his gift. As such, it is on private land, so a
semi-detached Anglican church, if you like. A third
unusual thing is simply that 18th century churches are
few and far between in East Anglia - there are less than
a handful. But the most delightful curiosity is something
inside, as we will see.
The church was erected in 1767, on the site of a
predecessor, from which the font survives. Otherwise,
this is a largely typical prayerbook interior, with
chancel gates and a double-decker pulpit rising above box
pews. Mortlock argues that a combination of the church's
newness and remoteness saved it from the Victorian
restorers, although of course neither of these dissuaded
them elsewhere. But it may be simply that it was actually
approved of by them, since its beautiful interior
decoration does not wholly conform to the pattern of the
more spartan prayer book churches which the
sacramentally-minded Victorians were keen to do away
The Victorians are certainly responsible for the east
window, but the two glories of the church are actually
from earlier in the 19th century. These are the 1820
barrel organ, which plays 36 different tunes, and is the
only one left in Suffolk, and the gorgeous gothick
interior decoration, the walls pastel shades, the roof
beams salmon pink, and the chancel roof blue and stars.
It is all delightful.
Aside from the font, the only other older feature is a
series of roundels of heraldic glass, some of which may
be medieval. Coming this way for the first time in 1999,
I couldn't help noticing a poignant reminder of the great
retreat from the land in Suffolk during the 20th century
on the south wall. The village war memorial lists five
names under the rebus of a shell end. Beside it, the
current electoral roll listed just nine names.
I have to say that I love coming here, and I have
revisited as often as I could, usually when cycling along
the back lanes towards Stowmarket to catch a train back
to Ipswich. It is always idyllic, always open and
welcoming. Indeed, this church is simply one of the most
gorgeous confections in Suffolk, and as little known as
near neighbours Harleston and Onehouse, both lovely too.
Long may they sleep untroubled.