Holy Trinity, Gisleham, Suffolk

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Feature Sets (3)


Gisleham stands on the edge of the arable land of the NE Suffolk coastal plain, less than a mile S of the edge of Lowestoft. The village was a small one, but the expansion of Lowestoft seems set to absorb it as it has already absorbed its neighbour, Carlton Colville.

Holy Trinity stands in the centre of the village, with the moated site that was once the hall less than half a mile to the S. It is of flint and comprises a round W tower, nave and chancel. The tower has a 12thc. W window and further small round-headed windows just above the nave roof level at E and W. An octagonal upper storey with Y-traceried bell-openings and a battlemented parapet was added in the early 14thc. The tower arch is plain and round-headed. The nave retains the remains of a 12thc. N doorway; blocked with bricks in its lower part and overbuilt by a 19thc. window above. This window is a copy of the 14thc. reticulated windows that form the rest of the fenestration of the nave and chancel. The work was done at some time between 1800 and 1860, and a N porch was removed at the same time. The S doorway is 14thc. and sheltered by a contemporary porch of knapped flint with flushwork and heraldic reliefs. The 14thc. chancel arch has been taken out, but the remains of its responds indicate that it was very tall. The remains of a piscina, like the windows, indicate an early 14thc. date. The S porch and wall were restored in 1990-91. The tower arch and the N doorway are recorded below.


The Domesday Survey records only two small holdings in Gisleham. In the first, one free man commended to Gyrth held 15 acres and half an acre of meadow before the Conquest. This was held by Earl Hugh in 1086. In the second, two free men commended to Burgheard held 1½ acres and 200 herrings, and one free man with the same commendation held 6 acres and 300 herrings before the Conquest. This was held by Hugh de Montfort in 1086. Beyond this, Gisleham was the home of two of the free men holding land in Mutford from the king. By 1229 there are records of land in Gisleham held by Simon de Pierpoint, and in 1299 land here was held by Simon Jermy. In 1339 there was a sale of land in Gisleham and Kessingland by William Jermy to Ralph de Megre, parson of Kessingland. Distinct from this is the fact that Sir Ralph Bigod, a great nephew of Roger Bigod, held land herec.1300. After the dissolution, half of the advowson fell to the Crown. It was granted, with the rectory house and glebe lands, to Adam Bland in 1576.

Benefice of Kessingland, Gisleham and Rushmere.


Exterior Features


Nave N doorway

The doorway is blocked with brick between the jambs, and the arch has been removed to make way for a 19thc. window. What remains are a pair of detached nook-shafts in sections with their capitals and bases. The E capital is double scalloped, and only the N face projects from the brickwork. The shields are recessed with concentric ridges in relief, following the line of the lower edge. The necking is a plain roll. The W capital is tall and block shaped with a small volute on the angle. Again only the N face is visible and a vertical fillet runs up it from the roll necking to the upper edge. Bases have a bulbous lower part with a chamfer and a roll necking above, and they stand on square chamfered plinths. No measurements were taken as it seems likely that the jamb separation has been changed in the blocking.

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Tower arch

)>W arch

Round headed, single order. The arch is blocked and the blocking fitted with a modern square-headed doorway. Jambs and arch are plain and unmoulded, and the imposts between are plain chamfered. The diameter of the arch is slightly greater than the distance between the jambs, and the ensemble has been whitewashed.


The capitals and bases of the doorway suggest a datec.1100, probably contemporary with the tower and its arch.


  • H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 262-63.
  • D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 3 East Suffolk. Cambridge 1992.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 230.
Exterior from SE.
Exterior from SW.
Interior to E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TM 514 886 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Suffolk
now: Suffolk
medieval: North Elmham (c.950-1071), Thetford (1071-94), Norwich (from 1094)
now: Norwich
now: Holy Trinity
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter