St Mary, Great Bradley, Suffolk
- Site Location
- Great Bradley
- National Grid Reference
- TL 674 531
; Thetford 1071-94
now: St Edmundsbury and Ipswich since 1914.
now (or name of monument): St Mary
- Type of building/monument
- Parish church
II General Description
The villages of Great and Little Bradley are in the Stour valley N of Haverhill; their churches less than a mile apart. St Mary’s has a nave with N and S doorways and a S porch, a chancel and a W tower. The nave is Romanesque; both doorways are 12thc., as are the jambs of the chancel arch, but the arch itself is later and steeply pointed. The nave windows have all been replaced; one on the N is 16thc., the rest are 19thc. The S porch is an attractive brick construction with a crow-stepped gable and niches, dating from the 16thc.. The chancel, and the upper part of the chancel arch, are early 14thc. judging from the S chancel doorway and the form of the windows. The W tower is perhaps 14thc. too, and has angle buttresses and a spiral stair turret at its SE corner. It was heavily modified in the 16thc., however, and the W doorway, the flushwork on the plinth, the bell-openings and the battlements on the main parapet and the taller stair turret parapet must date from the later period. Externally the tower is mortar rendered, as is the entire church except for the S nave wall (of flint) and the E chancel wall (of flint with brick diagonal buttresses and decorative banding) and the S porch of red brick. Of the Romanesque work, the N doorway is plain in comparison with the S, which is modelled either on the Prior’s doorway at Ely, or on the copy at nearby Kirtling (Cambs).
III Exterior Features
(i) N nave doorway
|h. of opening (ignoring modern step)||2.55 m|
|w. of opening||1.11 m|
|total h. of tympanum and lintel (radius)||0.88 m|
|thickness of lintel||0.18 m|
|h. of lintel||0.265 m|
The jambs are plain and square-sectioned up to the top course, which has corbels with projecting human heads, facing across the doorway and turned slightly towards a viewer in the porch. Both heads are carried on thick, horizontal, columnar necks carved with bands representing the collar of the tunic, as at Ely but not at Kirtling. As at Ely and Kirtling, one head is clean-shaven while the other is bearded, but their positions are here reversed. The W head is youthful and clean-shaven with bulging almond eyes under ridges for brows. The mouth is small, full-lipped and slightly open; a left ear only is shown, and the hair is indicated by a double row of elongated beading. Originally the angle of the block formed the nose, which ran down from the junction of the brows, but the nose is worn away now. The E head is similar, but with a short, striated jawline beard and a long moustache, curving up at the ends. There is no hair in the centre of the crown, indicating balding, and tufts at the sides shown as clusters of beading. A right ear only is shown. The corbels carry a heavy lintel, carved with a gable in relief on its front face, and this supports a segmental arch of ashlar voussoirs, infilled with flints in mortar. The arc outside the segmental arch is also filled with flints.
Detached en-delit nook-shafts on very worn, tall double roll bases on chamfered plinths. The shafts are carved in sections with double-twist cable, alternately roll and hollow, which changes direction with each section. The sections are separated by triple rolls. The capitals are similar in form; block-shaped with relief motifs in the form of a double cusp at the top of each face (like a double scallop capital but without cones) and a stem rising from the necking on the angle, and splitting into three. The central branch terminates in a leaf with scalloped edges, while the side branches are furled leaves running horizontally across the side faces of each capital. The W capital has a cable necking and the E a pain roll. Imposts are hollow chamfered with a row of zigzag on the chamfer and a roll at the bottom of the face. The arch is carved with centrifugal chevron lateral to the face, consisting of four stepped bands with a plain intrados. The label is chamfered with sawtooth on the chamfer and chip-carved saltires in squares on the face.
(ii) S nave doorway
|h. of opening (ignoring modern step)||2.40 m|
|w. of opening||1.17 m|
|total h. of tympanum and lintel (radius)||0.84 m|
|thickness of lintel||0.21 m|
Plain, square jambs supporting a plain lintel and a tympanum that has been mortar rendered. The lintel has cracked through vertically towards its W end, and the upper part of the shorter western section has been lost and repaired with flints and mortar; the repair extending onto the tympanum. A modern light fitting has been attached to the tympanum.
Detached en-delit nook-shafts on tall roll/hollow bases supporting cushion capitals. The E capital is a plain cushion with a square necking; the W has a fluted bell. Imposts are chamfered with a quirk at the top of the chamfer. The arch has an angle roll and face hollow. There is no label.
IV Interior Features
a. Chancel arch/Apse arches
(i) Chancel arch
Of single order, pointed. Only the jambs are original, and they are plain and unmoulded with hollow-chamfered imposts with an angle roll. The imposts have both been cut away on the nave wall side and the western parts under the arch soffit, presumably for a screen. The later (14thc.(?)) arch is chamfered on both faces, and height has been gained by springing it from well above the 12thc. imposts.
Great and Little Bradley comprised three holdings in 1086. St Edmund’s abbey held one, consisting of two parcels of 60 acres held from the abbey by a total of 12 free men. Richard fitzGilbert held a second holding, and four free men, Wulfwine, Leofric, Leofwine and Bondi from him. The third was Robert de Tosny’s demesne holding of 7 carucates, held before the Conquest by Thegn Ulf. This is assumed to be Great Bradley, and included a church with 15 acres of free land. Robert de Tosny was a collateral of Ralph (of Kirtling) and Roger. At his death his holdings passed to his male heirs Berengar, William and Geoffrey, but all died without heirs, and the estates passed to Roger’s daughters, one of whom, Adelisa, married roger Bigod. The manor thus came to the Bigods by marriage, and was still in their hands in the later 13thc.
Stourhead benefice, i.e. Barnardiston, Great and Little Bradley, Great and Little Thurlow, Great and Little Wratting and Kedington.
The attempts to represent the collar of the tunic on the S doorway corbels indicate that the heads were copied directly from the Prior’s doorway at Ely and not from the copy at Kirtling. The capitals have not of the richness of their Ely counterparts, but they are at least foliate, unlike those at Kirtling. The stepped chevron of the arch is another Ely motif; appearing on the arches of the chapel entrances in the SW transept. The N doorway uses the angle roll and face hollow arch moulding familiar from the nave of Ely cathedral, and a parallel for the cushion capital with fluted bell can be found in the Ely nave clerestorey arcade. A date in the 1130s is suggested for the work at Great Bradley.
- H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 230.
- D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 1 W Suffolk. Cambridge 1988, 83.
- N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 234-35.
- Victoria History: Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely X (2002), 63-69.
- Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 154-55.