]The Church of St.Mary and St.Peter, Kelsale
Kelsale church is probably a thousand years old being first mentioned in the Domesday Book (AD1086). Most of what we now see in the church is the work of Victorian restorations particularly during the “Arts and Crafts Movement” period. The church can be seen from a good distance, particularly on a winter’s night when the cross of top of the tower is illuminated.
The Lych Gate is the first sight as you approach the church up the hill from the village hall. The Lych Gate was designed by E.S.Prior and given by the Rector George Davies in memory of his first wife.
The church is dedicated to St.Mary and St.Peter. The church is unusual in that the Tower is at the west end of the south aisle. This is because a new large nave was added to the north of the existing church in the 14th century. The south Porch was added in the 15th century and in the 19th century the south aisle was extended to provide a reading room, intended for the education of children during the services and a place where they could be looked after to allow the parents to concentrate on the service and the sermon!
With all these additions it has been written by some authors that the church is an “awkward shape” and is a “mish-mash”. Beauty though is in the eye of the beholder!
View from south east showing extension for Reading Room – note change of colour of stonework
As you enter the church through the heavy oak door with its massive iron knocker, one is struck by the large open space at the west end lit by the large west window. The font sits here and is of a typical Suffolk design although the proportions are much different from others of this design. Behind the font and standing against the west wall is the former reredos which was installed behind the altar in the 1870’s by Norman Shaw. It was removed because it cut off much of the light from the East window, firstly to the side of the chancel and then to its current position.
In the nave, features to look for are the Jacobean pulpit which served as a pattern for the pulpit in Aldeburgh church, an oak lectern given as a memorial to a soldier of the First World War and the “pews”. These are oak benches designed by E.S.Prior, some say along the lines of superior garden furniture. The slatted backs, turned front posts and shaped arms are very comfortable and better than ordinary pews found in other churches.
The screen between the nave and the chancel was designed by Prior, look for the “rood group” above the screen. Glass in the nave includes designs by Wil
liam Morris, Ford Madox Brown and Edward Bryne-Jones.
The tower contains a ring of eight bells with the ringing chamber on the ground floor at the west end. The bells are still rung for special occasions such as weddings, otherwise they are only heard when visiting bands of bell ringer’s visit. A great pity as the sound of church bells on a Sunday is part of country life.
In springtime the churchyard is a riot of the colours of wildflowers, carpets of bluebells and the Fritillaries being particularly notable. The churchyard is managed as a wildlife habitat which shows with the numbers and varieties of birds, flowers, butterflies, moths and other insects which are found here.
Fritillaries in the churchyard
The Chapel was built in 1851 at a cost of £120.00, this included a cottage for the Minister. Apparently it took 30 years to pay off the mortgage.
In 1871 a meeting room was built onto the rear of the Chapel. It was in this new room that Joseph Arch held a meeting with local farmers that resulted in the foundation of the Farm workers Union.
Services are held at 11.0am each Sunday.
The church is situated in an isolated position south of Carlton Hall and can be approached by public footpaths. The church is of stone construction with a red brick embattled tower at the west end.
Interior of Church.
The church has no electricity, so most services are held in daylight, although some like the annual carol service are held by candlelight. Times of services are published monthly in the Parish Magazine or on the notice board outside the church.
On the north wall is a memorial inscription to Edward Fuller, one of the owners in the past of Carlton Hall and contains some useful historical information.
The churchyard is still in use and contains several graves and memorials of previous owners of Carlton Hall, including the Garrett family who were the founders of the famous Leiston ironworks.
It is a wonderfully peaceful setting and well worth visiting.