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Holy Trinity, Middleton, Suffolk

(52°15′16″N, 1°33′32″E)
TM 430 678
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
medieval St Mary
now Holy Trinity
  • Ron Baxter

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Middleton is a substantial village in east Suffolk, midway between Aldeburgh and Southwold and 3 miles from the coast. The Minsmere River runs through the village on its way to the partially drained coastal marshland that now forms the Minsmere bird sanctuary. The village centre is on the rising arable land S of the river with the church at its northern edge. Holy Trinity church has a nave and chancel in one, under a single roof, with a S porch to the nave, and a W tower with a spire. Both nave and chancel are 12thc. The nave has a shaft at its SW angle and a chevron-decorated S doorway, and the chancel has the remains of 12thc. ornament around its interior western windows on both sides. The piscina also includes some 12thc. work. The 12thc. chancel must have been lengthened and a new piscina built incorporating material from the old one. The E window and two N windows are intersecting or Y-tracery work ofc.1300, and this was presumably when the chancel was extended. The nave also has one Y-tracery on the N. All other nave and chancel windows are 15thc. insertions, and there is no N doorway to the nave. The S porch is mortar rendered with flushwork panels, battlements and a stepped gable. It has a classical pediment over the entrance and may be 15thc., remodelled in the 18thc. The nave and chancel have been refaced in mixed knapped flints and rubble, laid to give a crazy-paving effect. The tall, slender tower is of flint with heavy quoins at the eastern angles that may be 12thc. At the W are added diagonal buttresses with flushwork chequers. It has been heightened, and its upper storey has a slight setback. The bell-openings are 15thc., as is the embattled parapet with its flushwork tracery panels. The spire is a slender lead spike, and was completely rebuilt in 1955. While the work was proceeding, the thatched roof of the church caught fire, and the blaze spread to the rest of the building. Villagers rescued most of the furnishings, and surprisingly little was irrevocably lost. Romanesque work is found on the S doorway, the nave SW angle shaft, the piscina and around two chancel windows.


Aelfric held Middleton as a manor before the Conquest, with two carucates of land, six acres of meadow and one church with 15 acres. In 1086 it was held by William de Warenne in demesne, and to it have been added five free men and half a priest holding 55½ acres and two acres of meadow. A second manor was held by Munulf before the Conquest, and by Roger Bigod from Earl Hugh in 1086. This consisted of eighty acres with two acres of meadow. A third large holding was in the hands of two free men before the Conquest, and was held by Gilbert Blund from Robert Malet in 1086. Listed under the holdings of Count Alan in 1086 were 12 acres held by a free man before the Conquest. Leofric the deacon held three acres, and a free woman called Aelfgifu held 16 acres, both listed under Roger Bigod in 1086. The church of St Mary, Middleton was granted to the Premonstratensians of Leiston by Roger de Glanville, confirmed by Roger Bigod. The gift was confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1224. It was still held by Leiston Abbey in 1535.

Benefice of Middleton cum Fordley and Theberton with Eastbridge.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration



Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Frontal chevron, seen in the chancel windows and S doorway, is not common in Suffolk. It appears at Polstead, Hawstead and Wissington and of these the chancel arch at St Mary's, Wissington is the closest. The complex scallop capitals of the piscina are likely to date from the 1160s or '70s. The doorway and window decoration may be a decade earlier.

Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 117-19.
H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 293.
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, 362-63.