Friday, 28 November 2014

A Holy Trinity

Churches are sometimes like people. Even those that are not famous, handsome, wealthy or remarkable can be equally charming in their quiet, self-effacing way. Here are three that hide away modestly in the deep Suffolk countryside, much loved no doubt by those that know them, but doing little to advertise themselves to the wider public.


Onehouse, as its name would suggest, is not a large settlement and its church lurks surreptitiously among trees on the edge of agricultural land. Externally it is rather pretty and timeless. Despite looking so inviting the door is firmly locked so I can't tell you what goes on in its heart. Lets move on.


A short way down the road, or along some rather wet field-paths if you travel with me, stands the church of St Augustine at Harleston. If anything it's even harder to find than Onehouse, even my detailed map doesn't mark it very clearly.

But here it is, a quaint little building with a neatly thatched roof standing amongst Scots pines. At first glance the door appears to be barred....

...but actually that's a handrail fixed to outside of the door, so that when the door opens inwards you can hold it to descend the few steps down into the church.

Inside everything is as rustic and simple as you would expect - and to my mind utterly enchanting. There's a nice little bit of wood carving in the chancel too.

Back outside again on this glorious morning the sun was streaming down through the pines and all seemed well with the world.

How sad then to come across this row of rusting iron grave markers....

They commemorate the brief lives of the five Armstrong children: Percy (14), Spencer (12),
Beatrice (8), Nelson (6) and Frank (6 months) all of whom died within a few weeks of each other in 1891. According to an internet source the children died of diphtheria, but only mentions three graves. Another source mentions four. Now there are five; I suspect that the other crosses have been found recently, perhaps with metal detectors.


Another quiet retiring church reached by the narrowest of country lanes. It's in an exquisite location but seems rather a drab little building and one tries the door without any expectation of finding anything remarkable within.

What a surprise then to find an elegant interior painted in pastel shades with matching light wood box-pews and pulpit. What we have here is decoration from the Georgian period which has somehow largely escaped the attention of Victorian restorers. I'm certain those staunch upholders of standards would not have approved of these bright red beams!

There's also a barrel-organ which apparently plays 36 different hymn tunes and is the only one in Suffolk - and there can't be many elsewhere. As if this little church wasn't eccentric and daring enough there is also its dedication, which is to King Charles the Martyr, bestowed upon it by its builder, the local landowner Thomas Cropley, in 1646 - a dangerous thing to do during the Civil War. Sometimes it's just as well to be hidden away in the Suffolk countryside!

I also visited two much grander churches on my little walking tour and I'll be showing you those in a few days, though next time I've a tale to tell you from one of the villages that I passed through.

Take care.


  1. Well, you've presented us with three gems John. I'd enjoy seeing them myself. Yes - Tom Cropley must have been a brave (or silly) man!

  2. I enjoyed seeing these treasures as much as I did the long and winding trails (last post) that you walked to find them John :) I think trail walking is really popular over there right! I have friends over there who set off most weekends walking.. we do here also but the scenery couldn't be more different, still beautiful though.

  3. P.s. j'adore that last image John, tres belle!

  4. You do find the most extraordinary things on your wanderings. That pastel little beauty wins win me - hands down.

  5. Such lovely churches! I especially love the metal gate at the St. Augustine's church.

  6. I like the interior of the first church better. The second one looks like someone went crazy with their idea of interior decorating - not church-like as I imagine churches should be. Maybe I need to get with modern times. I like that angel carving. I'll buy it

  7. Amazing that you find so many new treasures on each adventure--the pastel church was a bit of a shock--but I like it!

  8. Looking forward to your next showing of churches. The churches you toured us around today have lovely simple interiors. I can't decide which I like. Onehouse architecture appears like a fortress. It's exterior brickwork seems in fine shape. St Augustine at Harleston is so quaint both inside and out. The thatched roof design is fascinating. Its pews are simple and charming. The metal grave markers are something I have never seen in cemeteries here in the U.S. I have been in many as I like to study them but not run across the metal ones like you show in your photo. The pastel shades in your Georgian church were a surprise to me also. I did think the colors were rather enlightening. thanks for all the great words and photos -- barbara

  9. An interesting collection. I've never seen iron grave markers before - nor a church painted pink inside!

  10. I do love the architecture of the older places. I would love to see these for myself one day, but until then, thanks for sharing!

  11. The first church reminds me of a castle and its so pretty. Wish it was unlocked.

    The second is equally pretty outside and like me the inside is lovely in its simplicity.

    The third church, while rather plain on the outside, the inside is gorgeous. I love those hanging lights and how there are doors on the pews. The floor is beautiful and somehow the beams don't look out of place.

    Thanks for sharing John.

  12. Have you ever visited the church in Depden? It's another that's well off the beaten track - no road access just a footpath around the fields. The local rumour is that the village used to be based around the church, but during and after the Black Death was prevalent, the villagers relocated to the healthier environs of the village green and left the church in solitary splendour. The inside is nice, but you need to get the key before you arrive as the building is kept locked since someone stole lots of the Jacobean silverware some years ago.

  13. Nice post - I think Churches are a bit like regional accents - a real guide to a place and its history.

    Glad to see you followed my instructions!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  14. Three absolute jewels John (love them all), and one very sad story.

  15. I'm impressed that so many of the churches there are not locked. To my way of thinking, all churches ought to be accessible. I love that the church that looks so simple on the outside has several surprises on the inside, such as the red beams.

    I cannot imagine the grief the Armstrong family must have endured when their five children died. Healthcare has come a long way since 1891!

  16. Three wonderful churches each having something of charm and interest. How sad the grave markers are and that one family should lose so many children because of that dreadful disease, diptheria.

  17. What a wonderful post, John. Excellent writing,fine photography, history, churches; you hit so many of my interests in one post.I would applaud if I were in earshot. Jim

  18. To you, John, these three churches might seem plain, but they are so different from American churches that they have great appeal to me.

  19. Hi John - fantastic post and exquisite photos ... I loved the Georgian church, also the thatched church - they do entice don't they ... and a graveyard with the sun spreading its wares through the trees or down on the graves ...

    Whole families dying ... and then their markers ... I'm glad they've found the fifth ... and at least they had the thought and care to mark the graves - that can't have been an easy time with so many many dying ..

    Lovely post and just beautiful photos and descriptions .. cheers Hilary

  20. The last church is certainly unique. I think it makes me think of a children's nursery, all that pink and blue. I suppose that's appropriate if we consider the "children of God" terminology in the Bible. But my favourite of the three would be St. Augustine's with it's simple architecture and welcoming pews.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).