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English Church Architecture -

Suffolk.

 

IXWORTH THORPE, All Saints (TL 915 730)     (July 2007)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

This is a humble little building standing alongside the A1088 Thetford to Stowmarket road.  However, it is not without interest, especially inside, and the visitor will do well to go in search of the key for it generally appears to be locked.

 

Consisting of a thatched nave and chancel with a later S. porch in Tudor brick and a weatherboarded bell turret of similar age to the west, standing on a lower stage of brick and re-used stone, this is nevertheless a Norman church in origin, as witnessed by the round-headed S. doorway (inside the porch), which is unmoulded apart from the chamfered under-edges of the abaci, and possibly by the S. door itself, constructed from seven vertical boards, and the external arch above the narrow (blocked) doorway to the north.  The oldest windows are of thirteenth century date, namely two N. lancets in the chancel, but the rest are renewed externally, albeit they form too much of a mishmash not to copy their original forms.  The S. porch is the best work evident outside, with its flushwork battlements (in flint and brick), its crow-stepped gable, and its outer doorway in moulded brick, bearing a continuous flat chamfer and a hollow chamfer springing from semicircular shafts.  Its steeply-pitched couple roof rests on castellated wall plates.

 

The carpentry holds most of the interest inside the building for there is no chancel arch and the arch from the nave to the bell turret is scarcely more than an opening roughly hacked through the wall. The projection between the chancel and nave to the north, is all that remains of the former rood stair.  However, as so often in Suffolk, the benches form a wonderful set (notwithstanding that they appear to have been moved around in the course of nineteenth century restoration), of the type to be seen, among other places, at Barningham, Norton, Stowlangtoft, Tostock and Woolpit, which were surely all products of one and the same firm. They are distinguished by characteristic bench ends and lively, finely carved arm rests in the form of animals and figures, those here including a dog, a couple of monkeys, a couple of bears, several birds (illustrated above left), a unicorn, several other mythical beasts, a mermaid, a man holding a staff, and a woman walking a dog (illustrated above right).   The rather ramshackle pulpit is nevertheless Jacobean, as shown by the characteristic blank arches, and the attractive three-sided communion rail (shown at the foot of the page), with turned balusters and gates to the north and south, is late Stuart or early Georgian, though certainly not as late as George III (reigned 1760 - 1820), whose arms hang on the nave W. wall. 

 

Finally, brief mention should be made of two monuments on the chancel N. wall, to members of the Croft family.  The more striking bears a long inscription commemorating Charles Croft (d. 1616) and features an achievement above, shields in the arch spandrels, and little dogs on either side.