St Mary, Great Blakenham, Suffolk

Feature Sets (2)


Great Blakenham lies 2½ miles N of the edge of Ipswich; the village sprawling along the road from Needham Market. The main road is the A14 half a mile to the E, but traffic through Great Blakenham is quite heavy enough to rob it of any village character. This is a pity, because the site is potentially an attractive one, in rolling landscape alongside a crossing of the river Gipping. St Mary’s is on the main road in the centre of the village. It consists of a nave, chancel and W tower. The nave is 12thc. with plain round-headed lateral doorways and one 12thc. S lancet. The N doorway is blocked and the S has a timber porch. When the visit was made the porch floor was being lowered to allow wheelchair access. The chancel has a 13thc. triple lancet in the E wall, blocked in the 17thc. and uncovered and restored in the 1870s. There are also 13thc. lancets in the lateral walls at the E end. An organ room has been added on the N side and a vestry on the S. The chancel roof is lower than that of the nave, but there is no chancel arch. The two-storey W tower has no buttresses, a tall plinth course and battlements. The bell-openings and W window are 14thc. reticulated. The church is of flint, generally rendered with mortar, but on the nave walls only traces of render remain. The W tower is rendered only on its top storey.


The manor was held by Leofstan, commended to the abbot of Ely, before the Conquest. In 1086 it was held by Albert from Roger de Poitou. It consisted of one and a half carucates of ploughland and five acres of meadow. A second, slightly smaller manor was held by thegn Aelfric before the Conquest and by William d’Ecouis in 1086. This manor included a church with one acre. Walter Gifford, earl of Buckingham, gave the manor of Blakenham to the Benedictine abbey of Bec in the reign of William Rufus. For some time it was under the charge of the prior of Ruislip, Middlesex, against whom in 1220, and again in 1225, this manor of Blakenham was claimed by Thomas Ardern. As a result of these disputes the manor was held by the crown for a period, but eventually full seisin was given to the prior of Ruislip as representing the abbey of Bec. The manor was later under the control of the prior of Okeburne, the chief representative and proctor of the abbot of Bec by the time of the taxation of 1291 and still in 1325 and in 1339. After the dissolution of the alien priories, the former possessions of the abbey of Bec at Blakenham came to Eton College. Among the grants of Edward IV to William Wbury, the provost, and to the college of Eton in 1467, occurs 'the priory or manor of Blakenham, co. Suffolk, sometime parcel of the alien priory of Okeburne.'

Benefice of Great and Little Blakenham with Baylham and Nettlestead.


Exterior Features


Nave N doorway

Single order, round-headed. The lower part has been blocked with bricks and a traceried opening added at the top to convert it to a window. The doorway is plain and continuous with a chamfer, stopped at the foot of each jamb.

h. of opening 2.03 m
w. of opening 0.78 m

Nave S doorway

Single order, round-headed. Plain and continuous.

h. of opening (to floor level) 2.28 m
w. of opening 1.01 m


Pevsner takes the view that the W tower is probably Norman in its lower parts.


  • Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 152-53.
  • H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 227-28.
  • D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 2 Central Suffolk. Cambridge 1990, 95-96.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 234.


Site Location
Great Blakenham
National Grid Reference
TM 118 509 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Suffolk
now: Suffolk
medieval: North Elmham (c.950-1071), Thetford (1071-94), Norwich (from 1094)
now: St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
now: St Mary
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter