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All Saints, Great Thurlow, Suffolk

(52°7′31″N, 0°27′15″E)
Great Thurlow
TL 681 503
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter
14 June 2005

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The villages of Great and Little Thurlow are in the Stour valley N of Haverhill; their churches only half a mile apart. All Saints, Great Thurlow is alongside the Hall. It has an aisled and clerestoried nave, a short chancel with a N vestry and a W tower. The 15thc. nave arcades are of four bays, carried on lozenge-shaped piers without capitals into which the arch mouldings die without any transition. The square-headed clerestory windows are Perpendicular too. The nave has north and south doorways, the north under a porch. The chancel is very short and 12thc in its fabric, with external shafts at its eastern angles, but it was heavily restored in the 19thc and given a new chancel arch, and it retains no original windows. The roofs of both nave and chancel have been raised, apparently for purely decorative purposes, since the tower shows the scar of a taller and steeper nave on its east face. Liturgically the presbytery has been given an extra bay by inserting a step opposite the first nave piers and by screening off the east aisle bays for use as an organ chamber (N) and a chapel (S). The west tower may be late 14thc, although its diagonal buttresses appear to be added. Its bell openings are no help; the north is 15thc, the south and east apparently 14thc and the west 19thc.. and an embattled parapet. On top of the tower is a neo-classical bell-cote of lead. The exterior nave and aisle walls are embattled too, and the church is faced with flint. The angle shafts of the chancel provide the only signs of Romanesque fabric, but there is a reset stone carved with a cable moulding reset in the west wall of the north aisle, and the font is 12thc too.


Great and Little Thurlow (7 carucates) were held by Edith, a free woman, in the time of Edward the Confessor; the manor including arable land, meadow and woodland, and supporting pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. It contained a church with 32 acres of land. In 1086 it had passed to the king. A smaller holding of 95 acres was in the hands of nine free men in 1086, the soke belonging to St Edmund's Abbey. Another carucate was held by 10 free men from Richard fitzGilbert; this also including a church with 29 acres, and finally Widard held 25 acres, also from Richard fitzGilbert, formerly held by two sokemen of Eadgifu. Great Thurlow is assumed to be the royal holding. By 1185 the lord of Great Thurlow was Geoffrey Pecche, and in 1272 the manor was held by Gilbert Pecche, who was granted charters by Henry III for an annual fair and a Tuesday market at the manor. Neighbouring Little Thurlow had passed to Sir Stephen Soame by 1582, and the family continued to live at the hall until the line failed in 1889. In this period, the two manors of Great and Little Thurlow effectively became one, under Soame's lordship. The combined manor then passed to the Soame Jenyns (a collateral line), who sold the estate to Charles Foster Ryder, the father of Baroness Ryder of Warsaw (1923-2000). It is now part of the Vestey estate.

Stourhead benefice, i.e. Barnardiston, Great and Little Bradley, Great and Little Thurlow, Great and Little Wratting and Kedington.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration





Pevsner suggests that the font is 'perhaps C17 imitation Norman', but neither Mortlock nor the present author have any such reservations.


H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 326.

D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 1 West Suffolk. Cambridge 1988, 87-88.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 239.