At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Martin, Tuddenham St Martin

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Tuddenham St Martin

Tuddenham St Martin Norman doorway Tuddenham St Martin
Tuddenham St Martin Tuddenham St Martin

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Tuddenham St Martin is a lovely village just beyond the Ipswich borough boundary in the valley of the River Fynn. Trees climb the east side, and on the other the houses build to the magnificent sight of the church crowning the hill top, the roofs huddling around it. The parish retains its saint in its name to differentiate it from Tuddenham St Mary on the other side of Bury St Edmunds.

A good Norman north doorway greets you at the top of the hill, unusual in the Ipswich area. Peter Northeast and Simon Cotton found several wills which give a clue to the church's rebuilding through the 14th Century. In 1452 John Mynter left 3s 4d to the fabric of the tower, and in 1457 Robert Goodwyn left 7s to the making of the new tower. However, by 1494 Thomas Grubbe left a bequest of 9 marks to be paid in 9 years from the estate to include 10s to a glass window in the church, suggesting that construction was still underway but that its completion was imminent and a window would soon be possible. The tower was obviously admired, because a 1497 will by Thomas Cady at neighbouring Rushmere St Andrew gave money for the construction of a tower like in fashion & bigness to the steeple at Tuddenham.

There was an early restoration of 1844 apparently by Ipswich craftsman Henry Ringham, although it seems likely that diocesan surveyor John Brown was in control of the bigger picture. However, John Corder's restoration of the 1920s overwhelms what was here before. The door to Corder's south porch is blocked after its conversion into a little meeting room.

You step into a cool darkness, especially noticeable if it is a bright day outside. There is a quietness that matches the shadows. The 1840s restoration brought some good things, but also the sea of tiling and the raising of the sanctuary so that the piscina is now at floor level. The reredos and screen are 1940s and 1950s work by Barnes & Co to the design of diocesan surveyor Munro Cautley who grew up in the neighbouring village of Westerfield and would have known this church well. It is a serious space, and perhaps rather out of keeping with the kind of white, simple, light spaces that seem to suit modern Anglican spirituality. But it is a period piece, and of its kind a good one.

Most of the furnishings are the 1840s work of Henry Ringham, bu there are some good 15th Century bench ends. A pelican in her piety plucks at her breast to feed her young, looking very much like the same subject at nearby Great Bealings, so perhaps the work of the same carver. A cowled preacher stands in a pulpit, and a cock crows. There are several good copies by Ringham as well. A nice touch is that Ringham's tower screen of the 1840s was completed with doors by Cautley a century later. At the height of his activities Ringham employed almost fifty people in his St John's Road workshops and, like Corder, he has a street in Ipswich named after him. As often with Henry Ringham's work you have to look closely to see what is medieval and what is Victorian.

pelican in her piety (15th Century) cowled preacher in a pulpit (15th Century) cockerel (15th Century)
Pelican in her piety (Henry Ringham, 1860s) cowled preacher in a pulpit (Henry Ringham, 1860s) cockerel (Henry Ringham, 1860s)

The 15th Century font is memorable, despite being considerably recut. It was erected in 1443 at the expense of Richard and Agnes Silvester, their names forming a dedicatory inscription around the base. It is surmounted by a crocketted cover painted with texts. The stem has an unusual array of figures, a priest, a deacon and acolytes bearing bread, a chalice, a basin and a missal. On the bowl above, angels holding symbols intersperse with Evangelistic symbols, except that one of the panels shows the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation, kneeling at a prayerdesk.

The glass is largely from the early 20th Century. That to the south is by Percy Bacon, depicting Saints Edmund, Martin and Felix. Mortlock notes a curiosity, for the dedicatory inscription includes someone who was still alive at the time. The three-light sequence opposite of the Prodigal Son is by Christopher Webb whose work is uncommon in Suffolk, but he was a favourite of Munro Cautley and so that may well be why he received the commission here.

A discreet memorial in the chancel remembers Sydney Cox and his wife Margery. Cox had a small but significant role in history, for he was the solictor who acted on behalf of American heiress Wallis Simpson at Ipswich Assize Court in 1936, overseeing her divorce from her second husband and thus enabling her marriage to Edward VIII. The king's abdication followed soon after.


Simon Knott, March 2021

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looking east sanctuary looking west
charity board font and font cover WWI memorial: 'The path of duty was the way to Glory' etched glass
font: Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation font: deacon font: angel with a crown
Good Samaritan (Christopher Webb) St Edmund, St Martin, St Felix
floor level piscina Margery and Sydney Cox


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