St John the Baptist Church Campsea Ashe Guide and History


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New Church Guide Book for Campsea Ashe Church

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St John the Baptist Church Campsea Ashe Suffolk ! Church Guide and Short History 1


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The Collect (from the Book of Common Prayer) Almighty God, by whose providence they servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance; make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly seek the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 1


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Introduction Welcome to our 14th century church, and we hope that you enjoy your visit. This History and Guide is dedicated to all those who have worshipped in this place for some 700 years, to those who worship today, and to those who will worship here in the future. Campsea Ashe (population about 350) is a village made up from the ancient manors of Campesia and Esce. At the Norman Conquest of 1066 these manorial estates became owned by the Bigod family (first Earls of Norfolk and builders of Framlingham Castle), and later the Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk. In 1195 an Augustinian Nunnery was founded to the south west of the village by the de Valoignes family, and a secondary Chantry College was created in 1348. The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536. The two constituent manors of Campsea Ashe remained broadly independent through the middle ages. They have successively been owned by the de Valoignes, Brame, Blennerhayset, Glover, Lane and Sheppard families, and more recently by the Thellusons (Barons Rendlesham) and the Lowthers. These last two families were great benefactors of the church during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. In particular, James William Lowther (1855-1949) was a Member of Parliament and Speaker of the House of Commons from 1905-1921; he was created the first Viscount Ullswater in 1921. 1


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St John the Baptist is an example of a typical English parish church that has stood for seven centuries, and that has been central to the lives of the people who built it, and who have worshipped in it since. Its lofty tower is visible from the neighbouring villages, and its bells are audible from afar. The church’s Nave and Chancel contain enduring memorials in stone, wood and glass to the gentry, benefactors, churchmen and ordinary people who have nurtured their place of worship for centuries. 2


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Inside the Church On the south side of the church the Porch leads to the west end of the Nave. Stepping through the inner doorway, one’s attention is immediately caught by the length of the Nave extending to the right, with its clean white walls and ceiling drawing the eye to the intimate Sanctuary and strikingly bright coloured glass of the east window. Standing centrally in front of the lofty tower arch is the octagonal 14th century Font (1) 1 dominating the west end of the Nave. This is contemporary with the original church fabric, and has a decorated bowl supported by time-worn and battered corbels. The surrounding walls are of panelled oak donated by Archdeacon Cory (Rector 1915 – 1937) and his wife, in memory of their son, Charles Woolnough Cory, who was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. Beneath the window opposite the door is the former church communion table, carved in 1912 from an oak tree cut on the nearby Rendlesham Estate, and a memorial jointly to the Lowthers and Baron Rendlesham. Before exploring the church, it is worth glancing at the framed List of Rectors mounted on the south wall to the right of the door. The Rectors (nearly 40 of them) make an interesting study in their own right, several being distinguished by their background, contacts and achievements. Examples are the industrious Samuel Kilderbee (a local magistrate whose family was closely associated with the painter Thomas Gainsborough), George Tavel (an eminent Cambridge scholar and Fellow of the Royal Society), Henry Knatchbull (a county cricketer), and Charles Page Cory (the former Archdeacon of Rangoon). Throughout this Guide reference is made to the plan of the Church on page 26 by indicating a number in brackets (e.g. Font (1)) 3 1


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The Tower and Bells The Tower Arch (2), 25 feet (7.5m) high and 10 feet (3m) wide, has plain sides supported on demi-angel corbels, and majestically frames the modern glass-fronted ringing gallery, completed in the spring of 2010. The inside of the tower is of ‘rubble’ flint construction and its west window, almost certainly part of the original 14th century building (or at least no later than the 15th century) is perpendicular in style. Its pink and mauve glass, however, is Victorian and the new cushions and bell-rope ‘sallies’ have been coloured to match. For most of its history the tower contained four Bells, latterly hung from an early Victorian frame (circa 1850), supported in turn by the original medieval foundation beams. Bells are thought to have been rung as far back as the 1550s, though the earliest current bell is inscribed 1601. They were certainly in use during the latter half of the 19th century, but were rung only intermittently for most of the 20th. The four original bells and their frame were initially refurbished for the millennium, but in September 2007 a major Bells Restoration Project was launched by local residents to raise a hefty £137,000, the aims being to replace the bell-frame completely, increase the peal to six and create the new, open ringing gallery overlooking the Nave. Mullins Dowse of Woodbridge were engaged as architects for work on the tower fabric, along with Reades, builders of Aldeburgh. Several new bells were cast at the world-acclaimed Whitechapel Bell Foundry, with Nicholson’s Engineering Ltd of Bridport carrying out the installation. As the project was nearing completion, four of the bells – unfortunately including a 1729 bell from the original set - were audaciously stolen during a burglary at the bell-hangers’ premises, an 4


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event so extraordinary that Campsea Ashe featured in both the local and national media. The bells were quickly replaced, and were rung from the new gallery for the first time on Friday 10 December, 2010. In ascending order, the bell specifications are now:Bell(note) Size Dedication Inscription 2311/16 in Treble (F#) 2 cwt 4 qr 251/8 in Second (E) 3 cwt 1 qtr 261/2 in Third (D) 3 cwt 1 qtr Fourth (C#) The old treble retuned Fifth (B) The old second retuned Tenor (A) Replaced the stolen bell 271/8 in Ringers Bell 3 cwt 2 1/4 in 29 7/8 in 4 cwt 2 qtr 33 7/16 in David Holmes 6 cwt 2 1/2 qtr Ricardus me fecit 1601 Founded by Richard Bowler, Colchester Whitechapel 2010 I B Anno Domini 1615 Founded by John Brend of Norwich Thos Gardner me fecit 1714 Founded by Thomas Gardner of Sudbury Archer family Whitechapel 2010 Old Rectory Whitechapel 2010 Village bell Whitechapel 2010 Reg & Betty Oxborrow Service Bell (G#) The old tenor 36 in 8 cwt 5


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! Rules for Campsea Ashe Bell Ringers circa 1892 6


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The Nave Prior to restoration work in 1869, entry to the Nave was through the old Porch part way along the south wall, roughly where the first window is today. The Nave contained rows of high sided, “horse-box” style pews, some with seating arranged on all sides to accommodate whole families. Today the simple stained deal seats have vestiges of where old prescribed seating arrangements were in place as ‘free’ labels can still be seen on a number of the existing bench ends (10). The 40 or so modern kneelers show a variety of designs, including local places, scenes and activities, and were commissioned and sewn in 1986 by a team of ladies in and around the village. ! 7


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During a complete redecoration project in the Spring of 2003, hidden under the Victorian wall plastering could be seen areas of medieval plaster tinted with a pastel green colour, with the rail at the top of the wall picked out in Wedgwood blue. This hints at the pre-Reformation church interior having had wall paintings, perhaps depicting Biblical stories and the lives of the saints, as was typical at the time. There are comparatively few monuments on the walls, but all are worthy of note. Most important are the two War Memorial Tablets (3, 4) towards the rear of the Nave. Campsea Ashe has the sad distinction of having to record a civilian death in its Roll of Honour for the Second World War as the young mother-to-be Iris Mabel Driver was killed when a German bomb fell on the village in 1940. The Lowther monument (9) (right) is the only other on the north side of the Nave. James William Lowther, the 1st Viscount Ullswater, was Campsea Ashe’s was most prominent resident in recent times. He was an MP and Speaker of the House of Commons, and his history is perfectly summarised in the text. 8 !


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The south wall of the Nave has Monuments (7) associated with the Sheppard families, land owners closely associated with Campsea Ashe from the mid-17th century until the late 19th. The grandest Sheppard monument is the central one headed Badajoz, commemorating the life of Frederick Sheppard, killed in action during the Napoleonic Wars. Two identical gable-arched tablets are on either side of this, monuments to father and son, both High Sheriffs of Suffolk. To the right is that of John Sheppard Esq. who died in 1824, the older halfbrother of the Badajoz hero, and to the left is that of his only son – John Wilson Sheppard - who died a comparatively young man just six years later in 1830. A simpler tablet to Letitia (died 1846), respectively the wife and mother of the two Johns, sits above the right-hand memorial to complete this Sheppard family group. Other memorials on the south wall are a brass plate beneath the Badajoz monument in memory of Lady Ullswater’s companion and her children’s governess, Corinne du Jongard, another brass to 2nd Lieutenant Louis Archibald Jarvis (killed in action 1915, the grandson of the 5th Baron Rendlesham), and a tablet near the Chancel arch remembering Lord Ullswater’s youngest brother, Major General Sir Henry Cecil Lowther of the Scots Guards, who died in 1940. Set in the floor of the Nave, close to the Chancel step, is one of the special treasures of Campsea Ashe church from the antiquarian point of view. This is the Memorial Brass (12) of Sir Alexander Inglyshe, listed as having been the Rector from 1447 to 1504. Much of the elaborate frame is now missing, but the remainder is an excellent representation of the priest in full canonicals holding a chalice of water in his hands. As such this brass is a rarity, being one of only four in Suffolk showing a priest celebrating Eucharist. The pious text beneath the brass is in old English script:9


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“Of your charite pray for the soule off Alexandre Inglisshe sutyme pyche prest of thys church o whose soule Jhu have mcy” ! The Inglyshe Brass 10


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The two remaining furnishings of note in the Nave are the oak Pulpit (11) in memory of Captain Lord Alastair Graham (a more recent benefactor of the village) who died in 1976 and the wrought iron lectern beside it with the inscription E Dono Kate H. Archer, having been given in memory of the young wife of the then Rector Goodwyn Alfred Archer (Rector between 1876 and 1891). There are six Nave Windows (5, 6, 8) which, following the 18th and 19th century alterations, are all of the same size and simple design, though with a variety of glazing. On the north side the first and third windows are identically plain, but the central window is to the memory of Egidia, wife of the 5th Baron Rendlesham, who died in 1880. In the left-hand panel of the window is the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) motif, and on the right is The Pelican in her Piety, representing a pelican feeding her young with her own blood and allegorical of Christ’s sacrifice and redeeming work. The Pelican in her Piety Sketch by Rev E T Cook ! 11



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