At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Andrew, Winston

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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early 16th Century porch Winston

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    Sheltering at the end of a little lane off of the busy road from Debenham towards the towns of the south and east, Winston is a pretty little hamlet consisting of little more than its church, the Hall and a couple of cottages. It is curious to idly ponder that if Debenham had suffered the 19th Century industrialisation of, say, Stowmarket, the town would likely have reached out and engulfed this little settlement, church and all, and we would now be standing among modern semis, or perhaps beside a distribution warehouse. But the railways did not reach Debenham, and so Debenham did not reach Winston.

The church is largely of the 14th Century, with a little Perpendicular finishing-off to come in the following century. Peter Northeast and Simon Cotton found a fair number of late medieval bequests to Winston church which provide a fascinating insight into the liturgical life and imperatives of the people of this parish. In 1461 John Ordymer left 12d to emending the bells, and in 1474 William Moyse gave the very large sum of 40s to the fabric or emending of the church. These suggest a likely time for the building being complete, but at the start of the following century there was another flurry of activity. In 1516 Margaret Father left 6s 8d to the hallowing of the church and to the hallowing of the great bell so that it be done by the feast of St Peter Advincula in the year 1518. In 1522 William Moyse contributed to the reparation of the church a coomb of wheat and a coomb of malt, while four years later Thomas Moyse gave to the reparation of the head tabernacle of St Andrew a coomb of wheat. The only obvious early 16th Century work on this little church is the red brick south porch with its image niches, so perhaps this is what is referred to, although it was perhaps just a part of the same attempt to make their church fitting for the intensely devotional worship of those decades before the Reformation.

James Bettley, revising the Buildings of England volume for East Suffolk, recounts several restorations since which have left their mark but have not unduly altered the little building. Diocesan surveyor Richard Phipson played his usual even hand in the late 1850s when restoring the chancel, while Francis Betts of Stowmarket took on the nave. Yet another local architect, EF Bishopp, restored the tower in the 1890s. Then in the first decade of the 20th Century that rising star Walter Caroe came along to have another go at the chancel, replacing the east window with one of those small, high three-light windows typical of the early 16th Century but which were coming back into fashion with the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement. Mortlock thought that it replaced a larger window by Phipson which had destabilised the east wall of the chancel on soft ground. Externally now the most striking feature is the crow-step gabled red brick porch, but I have recently been convinced by the brickwork expert Tim Meek that these early 16th Century red brick porches, which are not uncommon in Suffolk and Essex, were originally encased in cement.

The key mood of the church you step into is one of simplicity. Everything seems understated. There is a plain octagonal font, and a set of royal arms for George III out of which all the colours seem to have been bleached. The 19th Century benches still have their numbers on, and there are six curious glass panels from earlier in that century depicting Apostles in decorative glass frames. They are suspended in the nave and chancel windows. I wondered if they might be the work of the Norwich-based glass artist Samuel Yarrington.

St James (early 19th Century) St John (early 19th Century) St Andrew (early 19th Century) St James the Less (early 19th Century)

Turning east, the devotional sanctuary in such a humble building is memorable and rather moving. The bench ends on the chancel furnishings are powerful and characterful, typical of the work Phipson would have commissioned for a much larger church. At the west end, the angled tower arch is a curiosity, being picked out in red brick. The ghost of an earlier arch is discernible above it.

The Vicar of Winston in the early 16th Century was William Walker, who was clearly one of the followers of Matthew Wren and William Laud in his desire for a return to a more sacramentally-based form of worship. Inevitably, in 1644 he was hauled before the Committee against Scandalous Ministers sitting at Ipswich in April of that year. The charges against him were typical of the time, the evidence collected from a small number of puritanical and often superstitious parishioners, who presented it under oath. It began with his religious opinions and behaviours, charging that the said William Walker doth affirme and maynteyn that the papists be as good orthodox Divines and as pious & godly as wee, bowing to images only excepted, and that the said Mr Walker is very superstitious in his practices in cringing & boweing to the Communion table sett upp at the east end of the chancell, boweing at the name of Jesus.

As was usual in these cases, the charges went on to detail examples of Walker's immoral behaviour, that he hath been a common hanter of tavernes & ale houses at unseasonable tymes... a common drunkard and hath been oftentimes seene to be drunken, to stagger in the streets and not bee able to go without leadinge... the said Mr Walker is a great & comon gamster at tables for money, & hath wonne & lost much money. Altogether, sixteen charges were laid against him, many of which seem ludicrous to us now, yet similar to those laid before the committee against other ministers by resentful puritans in their parishes. Inevitably, Walker was ejected from his incumbency in July of that year, one of more than forty Suffolk ministers to lose their churches at the hands of the puritans. He would not regain it when the suppression of the Church of England came to an end with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, so perhaps he was already dead.

Simon Knott, April 2022

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looking east sanctuary looking west
grim-faced jolly wild man George III royal arms
chancel window font tower arch Winston X banner


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