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St Michael, Oulton, Suffolk

(52°28′57″N, 1°41′42″E)
TM 510 936
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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In 1868 Oulton was described as a large and irregular village 2 miles W of Lowestoft, bordered by Oulton Broad on the SW and by the river Waveney. It was chiefly an agricultural village then, with a portion of the inhabitants engaged in the fisheries (National Gazetteer). Oulton Broad still forms a natural boundary to the S, and Oulton Marsh another to the W. Oulton Dyke, linking the broad and the river, runs through the marsh half a mile W of the western edge of Oulton. The church is on a low knoll on this western edge and the view over the marsh towards the dyke and the Waveney beyond is much as it must have been in 1868. This was the site of the old village too, but the centre has migrated away from the marshland to the N and W. Immediately to the E of the church now is a large housing estate, and immediately to the E of this is Lowestoft, which has spread to engulf Oulton village, stopping only at the edge of the marshes.

St Michael's was once an aisleless church with a central tower, and retains its nave, tower and chancel. It also has a transeptal N vestry, built as a transept in the 14thc. by the Bacons, and had a S transept as early as the 12thc., so may originally have been cruciform. The flint nave is long and low, and may originally have been lower to judge from a change of masonry towards the top of the nave walls. It has 12thc. N and S doorways; the N now blocked, and the S apparently entirely rebuilt but round headed and with a chevron-moulded arch. The S porch. of knapped flint and brick is probably 14thc. The nave masonry is extremely disturbed, with much brick and rubble incorporated, and the windows were all replaced in the 15thc. The W façade is rendered and has a 19thc. window in the Perpendicular style. At the E end of the S nave wall, apparent inside and out, is a large pointed arch, probably 13thc and now blocked, that must have led to a chapel attached to the former S transept. The window set in the blocking looks 19thc., and this presumably dates the removal of the chapel. Inside the nave is a W gallery erected, according to an inscription, in 1836. The 12thc. E and W crossing arches survive; the N and S arches have been replaced (the S by a niche). The organ covers the entrance to the present N transept. This now serves as a vestry and a western lean-to extension has been added. The upper part of the low, square tower is almost entirely of brick, neatly laid and dating from the 18thc. in Pevsner's view. The flint chancel is taller than the nave and 14thc. Most of its windows, including the east, have reticulated tracery ofc.1320. There was a restoration in 1857. Romanesque features recorded here are the two nave doorways, the E and W crossing arches, and a 12thc. arch voussoir re-set in the S wall of the nave, W of the porch and approximately 5 m above the ground.


Oulton was not recorded in the Domesday Survey under that name. The Bacons were lords of the manor from the later 13thc., apparently coming to Oulton from Ewelme, Oxfordshire before 1281 (date of the marriage of Sir Adam Bacon to Margery Felton. A market and a fair were granted to Adam Bacon and Edmund Bacon and their heirs by Edward I in 1307, to be held at the manor.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Chevron arches of a similar profile to that on the S doorway are found on the interior of the apse windows at St Edmund's, Fritton less than five miles NW of Oulton.

Anon., The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland. London 1868.
Anon., The Parish Church. of Saint Michael Oulton. 1958 (updated to 1990).
H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937.
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, 387.