March 29 – Church Micros in North Suffolk

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

When we first arrived in Hacheston in mid-December the church micro at All Saints was the first one we tried to do but it had gone missing. This morning I noticed that it has been replaced so we raced up there so we signed a nice new log in a nice new box. The churchyard was covered in daffodils which were a brilliant sight.

We stopped at a geocache called ‘Tea Break’ as we were on our way north but the cache site was disgusting as it was full of rubbish and smell of pee. So we didn’t hang around, even for a brief look.

At St Andrews in Bramfield, we parked right beside a “crinkle crankle” wall. It was a lovely thatched roof church with a round tower separate from the church. It is the only church in Suffolk with a detached tower. It had a wooden rood screen with old paint on it and a dado with only five remaining pictures. There was a wonderful alabaster tomb to Arthur Coke and his wife Elizabeth made by Nicholas Stone, master mason to James I and Charles I. There were also some good ledger stones and some wall painting. A particularly interesting ledger stone is that of Bridgett Applethwaite in 1737 which is well worth the read.

After the fatigues of a Married Life
Born by her with Incredible Patience
For four year and three quarters, bating three weeks….

There were daffodils everywhere in the churchyard and I watered some daffodils in a vase that were looking very sad. The cache was easily found despite the fact that it had no hint. It was a great container and we gave it a favourite point for the cache container, wall and church.

St Peter’s church in Thorington had another lovely round tower with a brick battlement on the top.  Round-tower churches are a type of church found mainly in England, mostly in East Anglia; of about 185 surviving examples in the country, 124 are in Norfolk, 38 in Suffolk and there is a Round Tower Society which advertises and cares for them. St Peters had a Saxon window over the decorated 12th-century archway to the bell tower. It also had a George II royal coat of arms and three funerary hatchments of the Bence family.

The highlight of St Peter’s church in Wenhaston is the Doom painting. This Doom is notable because it is painted in oil paints onto oak boards. It depicts the Day of Judgement with the two central panels showing the righteous lining up in front of St Peter and with St Michael and the devil weighing a soul to determine its destiny. Experts differ on the date the Doom was painted, by whom it was painted, and whether this involved one artist or more than one. But it is at least 500 years old. It was whitewashed over in the 1540s, thrown out in 1892 and speedily brought back after the Suffolk rain revealed the treasure beneath the whitewash. Wenhaston’s Doom painting is simply one of the most beautiful. It was a real treat! The chancel arch in wood has a saint each side with St Peter on the left.

All Saints in Blyford had a rare Elizabethan exquisitely carved altar table with large bulbous carved cushion legs and there are only two such tables in England. The geocache took a while to find, made more difficult by the fact that there was no hint but then we realised that it was a bison tube and changed our tack and we soon found it.

In Holton, we found a Fine Pair as luckily we understood the hint. Mike couldn’t see it anywhere but then he touched it and we had it. St Peter’s church in Holton had another round tower and our third today. The outstanding part of the church was the C.E. Kempe stained glass window, the only stained glass in the church. The Kempe window had amazing facial features especially that of St Peter the Apostle. Mike found the geocache immediately.

In Halesworth, we parked in the middle of town which was free parking for one hour and walked to St Mary’s church. It was a lovely church and there has been a church on this site since the days of the Domesday Book. There were a couple of nice Ward and Hughes stained glass windows from the 1870’s. The highlight for me was the 2000 sculpture by Peter Eugene Ball called “Madonna and Child” fashioned from a piece of driftwood. We have seen a few of his sculptures now and they are immediately recognisable. There was also a lovely painted pipe organ and some monumental brasses. The 15th-century octagonal font had alternating angels and evangelists around the bowl and lions and woodwoses around the stem. We found the cache quickly and didn’t have too much trouble with muggles despite its central position. There were daffodils everywhere in town – so pretty!!

St Mary’s church in Chediston was a lovely little church with a well preserved octagonal font with four tall lions and woodwoses. It also has a lovely 17th-century Decalogue with Moses on the left and Aaron on the right. There was only one stained glass window to St George and St Felix plus small sections of 16th-century stained glass in other windows. We found the cache as per the hint. We found it by feel but could not see it when Mike looked. This is the first time anyone has found the cache since October 2017 as it is 15 m from the coordinates our GPS gave us so our advice is to go by the hint.

St Andrew’s church in Wissett is a listed grade one building with a round tower, with an original date of 11th to 12th-century.  The walls are faced in flint rubble. We discovered another Peter Eugene Ball sculpture of St Andrew mad in 2006. It is a piece of driftwood with paint and gold. This is an artist I would love to meet as I love his work. We had a late lunch in the car park in the car as it is a bit too cold to sit outside. We found the church micro quickly.

St Peter’s in Spexhall had another round tower and a lovely model of the church inside. The main stained glass window over the altar is dedicated to Queen Victoria in 1901 and depicts the Good Shepherd, Miriam and the widow with her mite. The church also had an interesting brass lectern dedicated to the Garrould family in 1897. We talked to another couple in the church. This cache took us ages and it didn’t help that there was no hint. The GPS took us to where the car was parked but there was nothing nearby. Looked in all the possible places but finally stood back as someone else had done and I saw it quite suddenly. This cache would have been impossible to see in summer, we were lucky there were no leaves on the trees. The bright green tape around the container really helped us to see it.

Our first multi of the day was at St Andrew’s church in Westhall and although I collected all the numbers easily enough I managed to put the wrong coordinates into the GPS and we walked over 200 m in the wrong direction. When I checked and realised my mistake we walked back and drove up the road just as it started to rain. It took us to a cool place around an old water pump but there were so many places to look. I looked somewhere Mike had already looked and there it was. We found surprisingly quickly given all the possibilities. A lucky find made extra special as it is our 700th church micro and 5993rd find. A favourite point for this one!!

The last church of the day was St Peter’s at Brampton where there was a George III royal coat of arms from 1797 and some good ledger stones. It has a lovely stained glass window by William Warrington from 1856 but it is also the only church in Suffolk to contain work by his son James. By then it was raining quite heavily and after two circuits of the churchyard we had only found one of the headstones we needed in order to collect the numbers for the multi so we decided to call it a day.

A great day out and we only need 7 more finds to get to our 6000th find.