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St Peter, Holton, Suffolk

(52°20′47″N, 1°31′36″E)
TM 403 779
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Holton is on the northern slope of the Blyth valley; the village has been engulfed by the westward spread of Halesworth, and although its churchyard setting is spacious, the surroundings are industrial. Holton is home to one of Bernard Matthews' three UK turkey processing factories.

St Peter's is a flint church comprising a nave with a N aisle, a chancel with a N chapel and a round W tower. A scar on the tower shows that the nave roof was formerly higher. The nave has a 12thc. S doorway and re-set above it is a 12thc. relief showing a lion. The S porch is 14thc. A restoration by J. H. Hakewill of London (1856-57) involved the rebuilding of the S wall, including all the S nave windows, and the addition of the N aisle and chancel chapel in a single build, with a three-bay arcade to the nave and a two-bay arcade to the chancel. Interestingly Hakewill's proposal includes 'taking down projection on S side' but gives no clue as to what this might have been. The chancel chapel is a vestry now, and may have been built for this purpose. The chancel arch is 19thc. and the chancel itself is heavily Victorianised, but the intersecting tracery of the E window and the form of the priest's doorway suggest an early 14thc. date, and the 15thc. S windows a remodelling. The tower is two storeys high and very tall. The flint lower storey has round-headed lancets at two levels, and there is a ring of eight similar lancets at the foot of the upper storey. The masonry of the upper storey is of flint and brick — clearly a different campaign from the lower storey. The single bell-openings are broad, pointed and chamfered, perhaps later 13thc., at least stylistically, and a brick battlemented parapet has been added. Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway and the relief set over it.


A tiny manor of 20 acres, held by Eadric before the Conquest, was part of the demesne of Robert Malet in 1086. Another parcel of 30 acres was held by Godric, 'a free man' before the Conquest and by Godric the Steward from Roger Bigod in 1086. This Godric the Steward also held 33 acres of ploughland and half an acre of meadow, formerly held by three Anglo-Saxon free men, and a further 27 acres were held from Godric by six free men. The largest parcel was of 1 carucate of land held by Robert Courson from Roger Bigod in 1086 that had formerly been held by Alwine, a free man commended to Eadric of Laxfield.

At some time before the end of the reign of Henry I the church of Holton was given to Rumburgh Priory.

Blyth Valley Team Ministry, i.e. Blyford, Bramfield, Chediston, Halesworth, Holton, Linstead Parva, Spexhall, Thorington, Walpole, Wenhaston and Wissett.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


The scalloped arch face decoration on the S doorway also occurs locally on doorways at South Elmham St Michael and Wissett. Twenty miles to the SW at Creeting St Mary something similar is found, but there may be no direct connection.

The lion relief is especially striking and iconographically puzzling. Simon Knott (www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/holtonp.htm) suggests that it is not a lion but a dragon with a child in its mouth, which he takes to symbolise St Martha, but the author remains convinced that a lion is intended. Pevsner simply calls it 'an animal seen from the side.' One possibility is a lion consuming a serpent; arguably an assertion of the triumph of Christ over the Devil.

Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 77-79.
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, 276.