St Mary, Poslingford, Suffolk

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Feature Sets (3)


Poslingford is in the SW corner of Suffolk, 2 miles N of the Essex border and 6 miles E of Haverhill. The village lies in the valley of a stream that runs S into the Stour at Clare, and a road following the same course forms the High Street. The church is in the village centre alongside this road, on the rising ground on the W side, and Poslingford Hall is immediately to the S of it.

St Mary’s has a nave with a S porch, a chancel and a W tower. The nave is of flint with 12thc. lateral doorways. The S doorway, with a carved tympanum and richly decorated capitals, is under a 15thc. brick porch, while the plain N doorway is blocked and has lost its arch. There is a plain 12thc. lancet on the N nave wall, but the other nave windows are late-13thc., 14thc. and 15thc. and are much restored, as is the flint walling. The chancel has late 13thc. lateral windows towards the W and Y-tracery and 15thc. windows further E. The plain piscina is 13thc. The E wall is entirely rebuilt, with a 19thc. triplet in the Early English style, and the lateral walling is refaced. The tower arch is a late 13thc. doorway with three chamfered orders. The flint tower itself has late-13thc. windows in its lower storey, diagonal W buttresses, and a top storey with 15thc. bell-openings and a battlemented parapet. An application to the Incorporated Church Building Society for a grant for reseating and general repairs by A.A.G. Colpoys of Sussex in 1881-82 was rejected, but the church has certainly undergone considerable 19thc. restoration. Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway and the font.


The largest landholder in Poslingford in 1086 was Ralph Baynard, whose holdings consisted first of a carucate of land and 20 acres with woodland for 5 pigs. A further carucate and a half was held by Norigaud from Ralph, and another carucate and a half with four acres of meadow by Walter from Ralph. Richer also held, from Ralph, 160 acres and a church with 40 acres of land attached. An estate here is recorded under the holdings of St Edmundsbury Abbey in 1086. Before the Conquest it was held by 12 free men of the abbey, and it consisted of 60 acres of ploughland. Another estate of 35 acres with two acres of meadow was held by Richard fitzGilbert in 1086, and by Eadric, a free man, before the Conquest. The Baynard family founded the priory of Austin Canons at Little Dunmow, Essex, in the early 12thc., and in the 1291 taxation Poslingford church was one of its properties. It remained so until the Dissolution.

Stour Valley Group, i.e. Clare, Poslingford, Cavendish, Stoke by Clare and Wixoe.


Exterior Features


S doorway, nave

Round headed with tympanum, of two orders.

h. of carved section of tympanum 0.49 m
h. of opening 2.21 m
thickness of tympanum 0.20 m
w. of opening 1.06 m
w. of tympanum at bottom (diameter) 1.54 m
First order

The jambs are plain and square-sectioned and carry the ends of the tympanum. This is in two horizontal sections; the lower a monolithic block carved in relief, the upper segment whitewashed. The carved tympanum is decorated in low relief with a series of ten vertical strips; each carved differently with a variety of foliage scroll, roundel, floral and interlace designs. In the descriptions below the strips are numbered from W to E (L to R).

1. At the R edge is a large half-daisy with a central boss and five pointed petals with spinal grooves. This is surrounded by a semi-annular band filled with a row of chip-carved four-pointed stars. In the lower L spandrel is a lily pointing towards the lower angle of the tympanum.

2. A vertical row of intersecting rings; six complete rings and a half at top and bottom.

3. A vertical row of three and a half units of chip-carved eight-pointed stars.

4. A vertical row of two four-pointed knots, each intersecting with a ring. At the top is a pair of quatrefoils side by side.

5. A broad symmetrical tree issuing from a single stem that branches into two and forms a tight design of scrollwork with spiral side-shoots and lily terminals.

6. A vertical row of two and a half paterae, each containing a daisy with a central spiral boss and plain pointed petals.

7. A vertical row of four quatrefoils.

8. A vertical knot of four-strand cable.

9. A narrow strip of foliage scroll similar to that found in 5 above.

10. A half-daisy as in 1 above. The surface outside it has been left uncarved.

Second order

Monolithic en-delit nook-shafts on tall bulbous bases carrying double-scallop capitals with tall abaci decorated in relief. In both capitals, each shield has a trilobed cone, the central lobe fatter than those flanking it, and a plain roll necking. Above the cones the two capitals differ. On the W, the shields are outlined by a double groove and those on the front face have small triangles chipped out. The tall abacus of this capital is carved on its S face with a band of lilies that extends onto the block beyond the capital proper, and on its E face with a pair of saltires in squares. At the top of the abacus is another carved band with a single running scroll with lily sideshoots that extends over both faces of the capital. The E capital has shields similar to those on the E capital, with a double groove around their lower edges. Then on the S face is a row of three chip-carved saltires in squares and above them a lily with its central bud fluted. On the W face is a single foliage motif covering the entire abacus, with a diagonal stem from which a lily issues to either side the fill the remaining space. On the same block as the capital, to the E of the S face is a single vertical running scroll with lily sideshoots. The impost blocks are quirked chamferd with plain chamfers. The W impost face is carved with a row of sawtooth below a row of beading, and the E impost face with a row of saltires below a row of beading. The arch has an angle roll and a quadrant face hollow without a label.



Located at the W end of the nave, alongside the S doorway. The clunch bowl is now square, tapering slightly towards the bottom. At the four angles are triangular clunch inserts, apparently converting the bowl from an octagonal to a square one. There are also rim repairs at E and W and an inserted repair at the N. The entire bowl has been retooled and the basin is lined with lead. The bowl stands on later cylindrical shafts with moulded capitals and waterholding bases, one at each angle and a thicker one in the centres. These in turn stand on a square chamfered step. Only the bowl is 12thc.

h. of bowl 0.36 m
int. diam. of bowl 0.50 m
w. of bowl at top (E to W) 0.685 m
w. of bowl at top (N to S) 0.69 m


Motifs similar to those on the S doorway tympanum are found on the font at Preston St Mary, 11 miles to the E.


  • Victoria County History: Essex II (1907), 150-54.
  • H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 304-05.
  • D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 1 West Suffolk. Cambridge 1988, 170.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 396.
Exterior from S.
Interior to E.
Interior to W.
Nave, N doorway (blocked).
Nave, N wall from SE.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 770 482 
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