||Sweffling is a
lovely little village in an area of
lovely little villages. Its church sits
in hilltop splendour, clearly a successor
to a fortified building, perhaps even a
pagan site. The churchyard rises above
the houses, two of which flank the
entrance. They must be fine places in
which to live; the one to the left has
windows overlooking the graves. A poster
for the annual Sweffling v Rendham
football match was pinned to the
noticeboard, and these two adjacent
parishes are traditional rivals.
The view from the graveyard
is gorgeous, of rolling hills beyond the
cottages. This really is High Suffolk.
Externally, this is rather a grand
building, and looks old. There
is obvious renewal along the top of the
nave walls, and the tower doesn't look
quite right; Mortlock thought it had been
truncated. However, it is not
unattractive, and adds to the impression
of a strong and solid church.
The best feature is the
grand porch, so typical of Suffolk's 15th century
flintwork. It is set-off well by the nave's
red-brick walls. A wild man and a wyvern spar in
the spandrels, quite clearly to me, although
Cautley thought them St George fighting a dragon.
There are three splendid crowned alcoves for
statues, which, as so often in Suffolk, must have
had very short lives before their removal and
probable destruction in the 1540s. The 19th
century cross surmounting the porch is a
not-unpleasing addition. To step inside, then, is
a bit of a disappointment at first, because the
inside has been thoroughly Victorianised, but in
fact this is an interior of some interest.
The font is made of grey Purbeck marble. It's an
off-the-peg job of the 13th century, with curved
arches all around. I think it is an attractive
example, despite the modern shaft. The font at
nearby Farnham is a 19th century copy of this
style. The decalogue boards are painted directly
on to the north wall, but it is done so well
that, at first, you believe them to be wooden.
They are a reminder that it is not safe to assume
these boards were always moved by the Victorians
from behind the altar. These date from the 18th
century, and are painted over an even earlier
restored character of the chancel, the
Y-tracery of the east window is elegant
and seemly. Incidentally, I remember
coming here about ten years ago and
noting that parts of the chancel floor
seem to be subsiding into the vault,
which must have made going up for
communion a rather tense affair. But this
has now been put right.
The most interesting feature
of this church is to be found under the
little ringing platform at the west end.
This is Sweffling Museum, a collection of
photographs and artifacts about people
and events in Sweffling in days gone by.
There is also available, with full public
access, copies of the parish records and
logbooks. How wonderful if all churches
could offer this service! Perhaps this
church is not one of Suffolk's glories.
But it is a nice, friendly building, well
situated in a fine village. So, who could
ask for more?