Where does one start with Stowlangtoft? It was another name I’d seen for years on road-signs while visiting relatives in the area, a name that always stood out and yet we never came here. I had for some time known there were good things in the church here, but the opportunity to explore them failed to materialise, until now.
St George’s church sits on high ground overlooking the main road through the village, a commanding presence rising from the surrounding trees, the tower with its squared off parapet looking a little dour compared to some of the more delicately designed Suffolk towers, but this is a handsome edifice nonetheless, built on a grand scale and all of a piece 15th century Perpendicular, though the windows are strangely narrow for the period, more concerned with height than width, much like the building itself which lacks side aisles, (which never seem to have been intended, this impressive mass was considered complete as it is).
As the church is little used now and generally kept locked it is necessary to seek out the key nearby and then enter by the priest’s door on the south side of the chancel. This reveals the tall and narrow space within from the altar end, and transports one immediately into the midst of the finest carved woodwork in the church. The glass in the windows gives the interior a rather Victorian atmosphere, but this is soon forgotten when one focuses on the extensive late medieval furnishings which are the glory of this church; the nave pews are richly carved with all sorts of fantastical creatures on the bench ends, whilst in the chancel are the stalls with their reading desks and a set of six of the finest quality misericords to be seen anywhere in the country. Most of this appears to date from the last decades of the 15th century but some of the carvings seem to betray an origin in the early decades of the following century. This is a fascinating collection of carvings which kept me occupied for some time.
In the chancel is another late medieval treasure but not an indigenous one, a set of exquisite Flemish carvings depicting scenes from Christ’s Passion that were given to the church in more recent years and incorporated into the paneling around the high altar (flanking the rather stodgy Victorian reredos). At the west end of the nave is the churches oldest feature, the 14th century font, the last relic of the previous church here.
Stowlangtoft church is usually kept locked so keyholder details are given, but fear not for they are friendly and live just over the road. Anyone planning to visit here should allow plenty of time (especially if like me they enjoy the carved wooden beasties of East Anglian bench ends as this church is full of them!). I had a more ambitious itinerary planned for this day, but having spent so long here I didn’t get around to seeing some of my later targets (or they too were locked by the time I did). It was time well spent though, as this was easily the biggest highlight of the day.
Tagged: , Stowlangtoft , church , Suffolk , misericord , wood carving , medieval , carving