, , , , , , ,

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am writing a series of posts about a few places I visited last year but hadn’t the time then, to feature in my blog.


The Priory Church of Saint Mary, Bungay, Suffolk

Last spring I went to see an exhibition of ancient and modern needlework and textiles at St. Mary’s Priory Church in Bungay.  The exhibition was called ‘A Stitch in Time’ and the leaflet I was given as I entered the church stated that it “… offer(ed) the visitor the opportunity to explore Bungay through the textiles that have been left as legacies of its past and … (admire) textiles that, it is hoped, will become heirlooms for future generations”.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) were in flower in the churchyard.

I enjoyed the exhibition exceedingly but photography was not allowed because many of the exhibits were extremely old and precious and all were unique and beautiful.  I spent some time admiring the needlework and also watching as some of the members of the ‘Sew on Sunday’ group worked on their current projects.

St. Mary’s Church tower

St. Mary’s Church began its life as part of a Benedictine Priory, its Parochial Nave, which was founded in the 12th century (about 1160) byGundreda wife of Roger de Glanville.  The nuns who resided in the priory were skilled needlewomen and made beautifully embroidered wall-hangings, altar cloths and other textiles used in church and chapel.  They probably also made embroidered vestments for the clergy.   The leaflet told me that after the Reformation in 1536 the Priory was closed and according to the parish accounts and local wills, “some of the church embroideries and vestments were cut up and made into elaborate theatrical costumes for the plays forming part of the annual Ale-Games in the churchyards during the Whitsun period!”  Don’t ask me about Ale-Games, because I can’t tell you a thing about them!  On display were some exquisite vestments and other church textiles.  Local churches, the Community of All Hallows and the Museum in Bungay had contributed some items for display, as had a number of local people.

St. Mary’s Church, built in the 15th century

Also on display were some needlework samplers dating from  the late 17th century.  These were made by the female ancestors of John Barber Scott (1792 – 1862) who was a wealthy local gentleman, diarist, philanthropist and Town Reeve.

I particularly enjoyed the display of work by the All Hallows Embroidery School which used to be part of the Community of All Hallows in Ditchingham.

The Barber Scott memorials and grave stones in the churchyard

I returned to the church a week later once the exhibition had finished, and took some more photographs of the church, inside and out.  This church is now redundant and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

Carving over north door.  A knight and a lion.

Carving over north door.  A lion and a mouse.  There is also a man’s head to the right of the lion.

An arch-stop with oak leaves and acorns

The north wall of the church.

I enjoy looking out for grotesques and gargoyles on churches.

These are the ruins of the 13th and 14th century priory buildings at the east end of the church

Priory ruins

Priory ruins

Churchyard with the Barber Scott graves in the middle distance

Look at the beautiful open-work cresting on the top of the north aisle! What skilled masons they were to have carved this!

I love this tiny figure of a knock-kneed kneeling knight in armour!

These niches on the buttresses would have contained figures of saints which were probably destroyed when the priory was dissolved.

More grotesque faces!

A chained begging monkey

A hound with folded paws

I’m not sure what this creature is!

I like the pinnacles on top of the tower. More fine carving here too.

Carving and flushwork on the West Front

Note the crowned ‘M’s above the West window.  The emblem incorporates all the letters of the name ‘Maria’.

Opposite the West Door is this stone known as ‘The Druid’s Stone’ which has probably been there since the Ice Age.

The inside of the church is less interesting than the outside.  Damage was done to the church in the Bungay Great Fire of 1688 when most of the roof timbers were destroyed and again during the Second World War when most of the glass was lost.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The slideshow above is of the windows and the stained glass in the church, most of which had to be replaced after the Second World War.

The High Altar

Some of the modern needlework that adorns the church

Carved ivy

One of the bosses in the roof. I apologise for it being out of focus.

Some of the original 15th century woodwork was saved.  I have no idea if this might be one of the older carvings.  Most of the roof dates from the restoration after the fire which was completed in 1699.

Another blurred boss

The font is 18th century and decorated with cherubs and roses.

Behind and to the right of the font is a stone bowl thought to be part of a Saxon or Norman font which was found near the Staithe in the town.

This is a dole cupboard where bread and other scraps of food were placed for the poor to collect.

The cupboard was restored in the 19th century but it is dated 1675.  Or, it may be a fake and made in the 19th century.  Who knows!  There is a rebus on the lower front of the cupboard; a large Q with a rat inside it (Curate) and his initials.  There are also mitred bishops being pulled downwards by hands.  Hmmm!  Bishops can’t have been rated very highly here!

I like the studded door.

The studded panels came from a 16th century house in the town.

The War Memorial Chapel in the church has this 17th century Flemish carving of the Resurrection as the central panel of the reredos.  

This beautiful carving was the gift of Sir H Rider Haggard  of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ and ‘She’ fame, who lived in Ditchingham House nearby.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this long post!