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St Mary, Letheringham, Suffolk

St Mary's church, Letheringham, Letheringham, Woodbridge IP13 7QY, United Kingdom (52°10′44″N, 1°18′59″E)
TM 269 586
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Ron Baxter
02 February 2006

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The small priory of Austin canons at Letheringham was set in low, rolling country alongside the river Deben in east central Suffolk, three miles south of Framlingham. There is no discernable village; only what remains of the church, converted to parish use, and the Abbey Farm alongside it, surrounded by an empty arable landscape.

The present church of St Mary’s incorporates the two western bays and the tower of the priory church. It is tall and boxy, its walls rendered with mortar. It has a 12thc south doorway under a brick porch of 1685, with a Dutch gable, and buttresses have been added on the side walls and at the eastern angles. The 12thc north doorway survives too, but this has been reset facing inside the church. The south windows are of c.1300 with three-light intersecting tracery. There are no windows on the north side. The east end of the church fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 18thc, but part of its north wall survives as the churchyard wall, and to the north of this are ruinous remains of the monastic buildings. The east window, rescued from the rubble and reset, is a three-light affair with cusped intersecting tracery. The 14thc tower is of flint and rubble, unrendered, with diagonal buttresses decorated with flushwork, a polygonal SE stair and an embattled parapet with flushwork panels. The tower arch is tall and incorporates some 12thc material, and the church also has a 12thc capital, loose but displayed behind bars.


Letheringham was a cell of St Peter’s, Ipswich, served by three or four canons under a prior. It was established by the Ipswich monastery after William de Bovile gave them his tithes at Letheringham, towards the end of the 12thc. The manor of Letheringhma and the advowson of the church remained in the Bovile family until the death of Sir John Bovile in 1348, when it past to Sir John Ufford in trust for Bovile’s, daughter, Margery. She married Thomas Wingfield, and the property was held by the Wingfields until after the Dissolution.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Loose Sculpture


The sinuous chevron ornament on the north doorway is not unusual for clunch doorways in Suffolk. Comparable work may be seen nearby, e.g. at Swilland six miles SW of here, which has the sinuous chevron and similar cushion capitals and a billet label.


H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 287

  1. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 2 Central Suffolk. Cambridge 1990, 149-51.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 331-32

Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 108.