St Andrew, Sapiston, Suffolk

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Feature Sets (2)


The church and Grange Farm stand together alongside a ford (now too deep for use) over the Black Bourn immediately SE of Honington in N Suffolk. In fact the churches of Honington and Sapiston are only half a mile apart. The two parishes were combined in 1972, and two years later Sapiston church was made redundant. The village of Sapiston has migrated N from the ford (at the Black Death according to local tradition), to cluster along the Honington - Barningham road, leaving church and farm to guard the ford in isolation. All Saints is a flint and septaria church of nave, chancel and W tower. The nave has a 12thc. S doorway under a 14thc. porch, but the windows are all 13thc. or later. Inside there is no chancel arch. The roofs indicate a two-bay chancel, but the chancel step is set one bay further E. The chancel windows indicate a date ofc.1300-50, and the N and E walls of the chancel are rendered. The tower is of three storeys and unbuttressed at the W; its arch is tall without capitals, and its Y-tracery bell-openings are ofc.1300. The nave and chancel roofs are of red tile, but the church was previously thatched. There was a restoration in 1847. The S doorway is the only Romanesque feature.


The Domesday Survey reveals that Sapiston was divided into many small holdings in 1086 and before the Conquest. The largest was held by 11 free men owing soke and sake and commendation to St Edmundsbury abbey. This holding included two parts of a church with 6 acres of land, 1½ carucates of ploughland and 6 acres of meadow. Peter de Valognes held thirteen and a half acres of ploughland and an acre of meadow, and three free men held them from him. Sasselin held half a carucate here, which thegn Godmann had held before the Conquest, and Robert Blund held another 18 acres, formerly held by two free men of Edward the Confessor. Around 1185 the land was apparently held by a family taking its name from the village; Matilda, daughter of Anselm de Thurston married one Henry de Sapiston at that time. The advowson of the church was given to Ixworth Priory in 1272.

The church is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.


Exterior Features


Nave S doorway

Three orders, round headed.

h. of opening 2.21 m
w. of opening 0.86 m
First order

Plain and continuous except that the jambs only are hollow chamfered with simple chamfer stops at top and bottom.

Second order

Octagonal en-delit nook-shafts mortared into their nooks. The stand on roll-hollow bases and square plinths on chamfered square socles. Capitals are cushions with angle tucks and a groove around the lower edge of the shields. They have thin roll neckings and quirked chamfered imposts. The arch has an angle roll overlapped by the uprights of a row of stilted round-headed cusping, in the manner of beaker-clasp. The cusps are defined by a single groove.

Third order

Nook-shafts, capitals, bases and imposts as the second order. The W capital has a later scratch dial on its front shield. The arch is as the second order too, except that the spandrels of the cusping are decorated with fluted multilobed leaves of three or more lobes. There is no label. Set above the apex of the doorway is a projecting head carved in full relief. It is worn but apparently human, oval (wider than its height) with oval eyes, a damaged slim nose and a beard or projecting tongue running from the mouth down the axis of the jaw.


The motif of cusping over an angle roll as seen in the seconnd and third orders of the doorway is an unusual one. Something similar is found at St Mary's, Wissington but this is in the far S of the county and may not be related. The doorway is plain but carefully laid out, and is tentatively dated here to the 1140s or '50s.


  • Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 105-07.
  • H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937.
  • D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 1 W Suffolk. Cambridge 1988, 185-86.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 411-12.
  • R. Tricker, St Andrew's Sapiston Suffolk. London (Redundant Churches Fund Publication) 1991.
Exterior from S.
Interior to E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 921 743 
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
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Andrew
Type of building/monument
Redundant parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter