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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Suffolk

by Peter Kessler, 21 June 2010. Updated 13 March 2020

East Suffolk Part 1: Churches of Rendlesham, Wantisden & Orford

St Gregory's Church, Rendlesham, Suffolk

St Gregory's Church, Rendlesham, is situated in the older part of the village, in the fields on the far side of the village centre. The other side of the village looks out over the former Bentwaters US Air Force base. Rendlesham was founded (or taken over) by the invading East Angles in the sixth century, and became their early capital. The village is close to an important East Anglian burial site at Sutton Hoo, and the church contains an exhibition of some of the findings from that site.

St Gregory's Church, Rendlesham, Suffolk

Given the importance of the site it is likely that there was an early Saxon church here, but the current building dates to the fourteenth century. The great tower probably predates many of its grand cousins in Suffolk, and a later porch stands below it. However, the church seems largely to have been built complete, with very few other changes being made. One change has been the thinning of Rendlesham's forest, which was badly damaged by October 1987's great storm.

Church of St John the Baptist, Wantisden, Suffolk

The Church of St John the Baptist, Wantisden, stands at the south-western corner of Bentwaters Airbase, which divides it from Rendlesham. It is one of only two churches (the other being Chillesford) to be built from the local Suffolk coralline crag. It was erected in the fourteenth century, onto existing twelfth century walls, with a square tower, a chancel and nave, all using ashlar in corraline crag. It was largely accessible only with difficulty until fairly recently.

Orford Primitive Methodist Chapel, Orford, Suffolk

Orford Methodist Chapel (from 1932) stands on the northern side of Broad Street, about forty metres east of the Gedgrave Road junction. It is a perfectly Edwardian building, built in 1901 to replace the preceding Orford Primitive Methodist Chapel of 1837 which had occupied the same site. The style is very much that of Anglican and Methodist churches of the period, a large Perpendicular window above an entrance portico; red brick banded with white.

Church of St Bartholomew, Orford, Suffolk

The Church of St Bartholomew, Orford, is at the north-east corner of Market Hill and Front Street from which it is shielded by the Kings Head Inn. Its main phase of construction was between 1170-1220, at which time it was a chapel-of-ease to All Saints Church, Sudbourne. Some fine twelfth century Norman chancel arches survive from that period outside the church's east end (shown below), making it clear that the larger Norman church building was thought important.

Church of St Bartholomew, Orford, Suffolk

It was rebuilt and extended about 1220 and contains additions and modifications from many periods since then, including a contemporary sculpture of St Bartholomew above the porch and a 'Crown of Thorns' aumbrey light by a well known local artist. The appearance of the top of the tower (see above) is due to an attempt in the 1970s to make good a partial collapse of the 1830s. Thanks to its fine acoustics the church was much loved by composer Benjamin Britten.

Two photos on this page kindly contributed by Louise Blake-Jeeves, with two by Douglas Law, and one each by Amanda Slater and Sam Weller, all via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group. Additional information by Douglas Law.



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