||Sotterley is home to the
secretive church of St
Margaret, set in the
grounds of Sotterley Hall. St Margaret is
one of the most interesting and lovely
small churches in East Anglia, but you'll
need to walk for a mile across fields to
reach it. This was probably sufficient to
put off Simon Jenkins, who unaccountably
missed it out of his England's
Thousand Best Churches.
the 19th Century, Sotterley Hall was home
to the Barne family. In 1883, they paid
for the construction of this small
mortuary chapel and burial ground down by
the crossroads in the village. Whether it
was intended to save the poor villagers
of Sotterley the trouble of taking their
dead to the Hall to be buried, or to save
the Barne family the inconvenience of
those same villagers tramping up their
drive with coffins, is open to question.
Perhaps the churchyard was full.
Whatever, the new burial ground was
certainly a convenience.
modern connotations of the word 'mortuary' are
rather off-putting, but it simply means a
building where funeral services could be read
before burial, but which was otherwise not used
for the ceremonials and liturgy of the church.
The building is octagonal in shape, with a porch
at each end. It is actually the doorway at the
opposite end to the gates which is the entrance.
Inside, benches provide seating for concerts and
other events, but there is also the funeral bier
to remind you of the main use of this building in
days gone by.
|Ten years ago, this building
was in poor condition, and found itself
on the local authority's Buildings at
Risk register. It was even threatened
with demolition. Fortunately, an
enthusiastic band of locals got together
and formed the Sotterley Chapel
which took the building to task. They've
repaired or replaced pretty much
everything except the walls: the floor
had to be completely replaced, and the
roof also underwent considerable
refurbishment. The crumbling buttresses
have been replaced sympathetically. It
lifts the heart to step inside this
building now, despite its former use.
Sotterley burial ground is still open for
burials today. It is an interesting place
to wander, and there are a couple of
particularly lovely modern memorials,
including one to the artist Jenny Creasy,
who lived locally.