27 January 2012
Whilst rehearsing for a play in St Mary’s, Redgrave last year one of the actresses stamped her foot, which caused the chancel floor to give way. We did know there was a family burial vault nearby, but this incident revealed to us where the passage to it was. Because we had to take up part of the floor anyway, for repairs, it gave the opportunity to undertake an archaeological investigation of the vault and the 17 coffins in it, so several hours were spent underground recording it. Why waste an opportunity? With the permission of the family (who still live in the village) we planned an Open Vault weekend for the public.
St Mary’s Church, Redgrave, is large, fine church set away from the present centre of the village. Its size and quality reflect the wealthy patronage of Bury St Edmunds Abbey, which was the second biggest Benedictine monastery in Britain.
The present church was built sometime in the first half of the 14th century, replacing an earlier church. It was built in the fashionable ‘Decorated’ style of the period, and has a stunningly intricate east window and finely carved sedilia in the chancel. The octagonal font and quatrefoil columns in the nave date from this time. A clerestory was added to the roof of the nave a century or so later, with windows in ‘Perpendicular’ style and decorative flushwork panels of flint. It contains several impressive monuments.
The church is no longer used for regular worship by the parish but is cared for by The Churches Conservation Trust and is open on the first Saturday morning of every month. Visit our website for more information: http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/St-Marys-Church-Redgrave-Suffolk/
Post by Owen Thompson, Development Officer Norfolk & Suffolk, The Churches Conservation Trust.
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