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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Suffolk

by Peter Kessler, 13 March 2020

East Suffolk Part 6: Churches of Bungay

Holy Trinity Church, Bungay, Suffolk

Holy Trinity Church, Bungay, stands on the eastern side of Trinity Street, about ninety metres north of the Wharton Street junction. It consists of a nave, south aisle, and south porch, with a fine round tower which is believed to be the oldest surviving structure in the town. A screen was erected inside the church about 1558 to create a partition for the chancel. This would have been the same chancel that was later destroyed by fire, with its remnants being cleared in 1754.

Holy Trinity Church, Bungay, Suffolk

The round tower is reputed to be Saxon in origin thanks to its gabled arch. Round church towers are rare outside East Anglia, but the region itself has about 180 of them. This one also has an octagonal embattled top of the 1400s which bears various arms. It was struck by lightening in the early 1800s, which split the walls and melted all the bells but one. The only elegant fitting now surviving is the pulpit, which is finely carved out of brown oak and dates to the 1500s.

St Mary's Church, Bungay, Suffolk

St Mary's Church, Bungay, lies between St Mary's Street and Trinity Street, with St Edmund's on its southern flank (see below). A Saxon church stood on the site (mentioned in 1086) but this was entirely replaced in the twelfth century by a new church for the adjacent Benedictine priory (below). Thanks to later rebuilding, most of the present structure dates from the fourteenth century. The porch exemplifies this, dating to 1309. The north aisle was added in the 1400s.

St Mary's Church, Bungay, Suffolk

The church along with the town was gutted by fire in 1688 when all its medieval wooden fittings were lost, and the tower and south aisle had to be rebuilt. The repaired church reopened in 1701, consisting of the parochial nave, aisles, and tower of the former priory church. Stretching eastwards from the present east wall are the ruins of the former conventional quire, where the nuns heard mass. Now redundant, the church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

Bungay Nunnery, Benedictine Convent of St Cross, Bungay, Suffolk

Bungay Nunnery stood on the east flank of St Mary's Church (above), filling much of the street. Formally known either as the Benedictine Convent of St Cross or the Convent of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Cross, it was built for an order of nuns which had been founded about 1160 by Gundreda, wife of Sir Roger de Glanville. The priory church, built in the 1100s, survives in part as St Mary's while the ruins show how big it used to be. The priory itself is entirely lost.

St Edmund's Catholic Church, Bungay, Suffolk

St Edmund's Catholic Church, Bungay, is on the south flank of St Mary's (above). The parish grew out of the Flixton Hall mission of 1657-1665. The hall later passed into Protestant hands and the 'priest's house' in the village was built for Benedictine missioners. The mission continued until 1821 when land from the former Benedictine convent was donated by the duke of Norfolk. The first Catholic chapel was opened in 1823. It was replaced by the present church in 1891.

Two photos each on this page kindly contributed by JMC4 - Church Explorer, and Jelltex, with one by Sam Weller, all via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group, and one photo copyright Evelyn Simak, and reused under a cc licence.

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