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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Suffolk

by Peter Kessler, 13 March 2020

East Suffolk Part 4: Churches of Wrentham, Henstead & South Elmham

Wrentham Chapel (United Reformed Church), Wrentham, Suffolk

Wrentham Chapel (United Reformed Church) is on the northern side of Chapel Road, about thirty metres north-west of The Chestnuts junction. It was built in 1778 as Wrentham Congregational Chapel, for a congregation that had formed in the late 1600s following the division between Anglican and nonconformist worship. Wrentham's master builder, John Owchin, is presumed to have handled the work which allowed the congregation a permanent place of its own.

St Mary's Church, Henstead, Suffolk

St Mary's Church, Henstead, is on the northern side of the B1127, about ninety metres west of the Church Road and The Street crossroads junction. This flint building was erected in the 1100s. It consists of a single, thatched nave and chancel, no chancel arch, and a tall tower that was added in the 1300s with diagonal buttresses and flushwork on the parapet. The two nave doorways are twelfth century work, with the south door protected by a porch of the 1300s.

Church of St Nicholas, South Elmham, Suffolk

The site of the Church of St Nicholas, South Elmham, is on the northern side of the east-west lane between Old Hall Farm and The Street, immediately to the east of the southwards junction with Wheelbarrow Lane. Its parish was consolidated with that of St Margaret (below) in 1362. A single incumbent was selected for both churches from 1554, and St Nicholas may have been closed soon afterwards. It was described in 1640 as having been 'long ruinous'.

South Elmham Minster, South Elmham, Suffolk

The ruins of South Elmham Minster are accessed via a footpath that leads south-west from South Elmham Hall, roughly midway between St Cross South Elmham and St James South Elmham. It is thought to have been built as a chapel in the 1000s. Unusually, it sits inside a fortified enclosure and may even have been the seat of the late 600s See of Elmham - certainly the site had a long relationship with the bishops of Norwich. The chapel was ruinous by the 1200s.

Church of St Margaret of Antioch, South Elmham, Suffolk

The Church of St Margaret of Antioch, South Elmham, sits inside the curve of The Street and overlooks the northwards connection with Flixton Road. This is one of six parishes bearing the South Elmham name which, together with the four nearby Ilketshalls, are known as the 'Saints'. This church was built in the late twelfth century, consisting of the nave alone. The chancel and tower were added in the fourteenth century, when tower building was all the rage.

Church of St Margaret of Antioch, South Elmham, Suffolk

The large windows were inserted in the fifteenth century, while the square tower has five bells, all of which were cast by the Brend family of Norwich. The earliest of them dates to 1596, cast by William Brend, while the rest date to 1637-1657. The church was restored in 1838 and again in 1875, this time by Richard Philpson when most of the wooden fittings were replaced. Prior to the Reformation the church contained a Guild of St Margaret, and an image of St Thomas.

One photo on this page originally published on Lynne's 'Echoes of the Past' blog and reproduced here with permission, two kindly contributed by JMC4 - Church Explorer and one by Douglas Law, all via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group, and one copyright © Evelyn Simak, and reused under a cc licence. Additional information from Lynne's 'Echoes of the Past' blog and by JMC4 - Church Explorer.



Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.