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St Mary of the Assumption, Ufford, Suffolk

(52°7′13″N, 1°21′24″E)
TM 299 522
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Ufford is a substantial village in SE Suffolk, clustering around a network of by-roads off the old road from Woodbridge to Wickham Market, and now bounded to the W by the new road - the A12 Ufford by-pass. To the E of the village the river Deben flows from N to S, and the church overlooks the pastures of its water meadow.

St Mary's is a substantial flint church of nave with S aisle and S porch, chancel with N vestry and W tower. The nave appears 15thc.; it is tall with Perpendicular clerestories on both sides, despite on having an aisle on the S. There is 11th -12thc. herringbone masonry on the N wall, however, and one N window has Y-tracery ofc.1300, so its Perpendicular appearance results from a remodelling rather than a complete rebuild. This included the nave roof, with embattled tie beams, every alternate one of which has been curtailed at each end and finished with an angel (perhaps in the 18thc.) to look like hammerbeams. The base of the rood screen and the rood beam above also survive and date from the same period. The S aisle has a four-bay arcade; the two E bays are early 13thc. with cylindrical piers and round moulded capitals, and the two W bays with octagonal piers and capitals. All the arches are pointed and of two chamfered porch orders. The aisle windows are 15thc. and the 15thc. S is of knapped flint with elaborate flushwork and sculptural ornament. The chancel arch and tower arch are both 15thc. The chancel has a 13thc. angle piscina and dropped sill sedilia, but its windows are again 15thc.

The S chancel doorway is something of a puzzle. Its arch is tall and pointed with a double fluted chamfer and its label is a 13thc. type with elongated human head label stops, but its capitals are a 12thc. flat-leaf type and do not fit very well. It is described in full below. The doorway from the chancel into the shed-like flint and brick vestry provides another enigma. It is round headed, and Pevsner calls it a reused Norman doorway, but the profile of the continuous arch and jambs belongs to the 14thc. rather than the 12thc. This too is described below.

The flint W tower may be 14thc., but if so it has undergone the same 15thc. remodelling as the rest of the church. Its W window and tall three-light bell-openings are Perpendicular, although the W doorway is simpler than might be expected and could be earlier. It has diagonal buttresses with chequered flushwork, and they run right up the tower to terminate in pinnacles at the corners of the embattled parapet. There is a polygonal stair on the S wall.

St Mary's is celebrated above all for its font cover, a multi-storeyed tapering octagonal construction with flying buttresses, tracery panels and figures in niches that reaches up to the roof timbers and terminates in a pelican. Cautley has called it 'the most beautiful in the world', and it would be difficult to disagree.


Before the Conqest Aelmar, a free man commended to Eadric and to Ely abbey held 60 acres here as a manor with 3 acres of meadow and a mill. In the same place were 9 free men with the same commendation who held 25 acres and 2 acres of meadow. In 1086 this manor was held by Gilbert de Wissant from Robert Malet. Robert Malet's overlordship also included 8 acres of ploughland and 1 acre of meadow formerly held by a free man commended to Eadric (in the valuation of Dennington). A second manor was held before the Conquest by Almaer, a free man commended to Eadric and to Ely abbey. This consisted of 60 acres of ploughland and 4 acres of meadow, and was held by Ely Abbey in 1086. Nine free men under similar commendation held 25 acres of ploughland and 2 acres of meadow here before the Conquest; land held by Ely Abbey in 1086. Roger Bigod's holdings included 3 acres held formerly by a free man commended to Northmann. St Edmundsbury Abbey held 24 acres of ploughland and 2 acres of meadow here, both before the Conquest (when a free man commended to the abbey held it) and in 1086. No church was recorded with any of these holdings. There were thus two manors here in 1086; one held by Gilbert de Wissant and the other by Ely abbey. The lordship was later held by the Peyton family, John de Peyton's son Robert de Ufford (c.1244-97) apparently being the first to take the name of the manor as his own. The Uffords became Earls of Suffolk in the 14thc., Robert's grandson, also called Robert (1298-1369) being the first to bear the title.

Benefice of Melton and Ufford.


Exterior Features



The S chancel doorway appears to have a mid- to late- 13thc. head on late 12thc. jambs, and the remodelling is not a successful one. The vestry doorway may be a remodelling of a plain 12thc. doorway, but could equally be contemporary with the vestry itself.

H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 82, 328.
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, 470-71.