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St Peter, Spexhall, Suffolk

(52°22′5″N, 1°29′30″E)
TM 378 802
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Ron Baxter
01 February 2006

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Feature Sets

Spexhall is in NE Suffolk, two miles north of Halesworth. The Roman road called Stone Street (now the A144) runs from north to south through the parish along a high plateau from Bungay to Halesworth. The village centre is simply a few houses and the church at the junction of two lanes, 0.6 mile west of the Roman road, and from this point the land falls away to the SW towards Wissett, where a valley runs SE to join the river Blyth at Halesworth. Spexhall Hall stands 0.7 mile north of the church and Spexhall Manor 0.6 mile south of it.

St Peter’s has a nave with a south porch, a chancel of the same width and height as the nave, and round west tower. The nave is of flint and rubble with a slate roof. It is 12thc, with walls thicker at the bottom and a blocked early-12thc north doorway. The south doorway is 14thc under a 15thc porch of knapped flint with flushwork panels on the buttresses. This porch was restored in 1733. The nave windows are 15thc. The chancel is also of flint, but of a different build from the nave, and probably early 14thc in date. It has a tile roof. Its south doorway is early 14thc and its windows 15thc. Unlike the nave it is buttressed, with a flying buttress over the priest’s doorway. The east wall was rebuilt in 1713 in brick with a diaper pattern of lattice, but the east window dates from the 19thc, its 1713 predecessor having been condemned by the incumbent Charles Craven (1847-77) as “of mean structure of two lights” and replaced in Victorian Perpendicular. The interior of nave and chancel form a single space with no chancel arch. There is a rood stair at the NE corner of the nave and nave and chancel piscinas, both on the south wall and both with cusped heads of c1300. The tower fell down in 1725 and was not replaced until 1911, with funding from the Calverts of Spexhall manor and the parishioners. When the foundations of the fallen tower were uncovered in 1911, they were declared to be Saxon, but this is no guarantee of a pre-Conquest date. The present tower has a circular bell-stair at the SE, its windows are plain lancets and it has an embattled parapet. The tower arch is also modern. There was a bequest by William Dallyng, Chaplain of Halesworth for the fabric in 1429, suggesting that work was going on here at that time. The church was restored by J. K. Colling in the 1870s. He renewed the roofs in 1876 and added the diagonal east buttresses, but the new structure put such a strain on the chancel walls that lateral buttresses were added in 1888. A sketch of the church from the SE by Henry Davy of 1849 shows the church without its west tower and with a small wooden bell-turret over the west gable. Romanesque sculpture is found on the nave north doorway and a reset stone alongside the south chancel doorway.


Spexhall is not mentioned by name in the Domesday survey.

Ploughland and pasture in Spexhall and elsewhere were alienated to Blythburgh Priory in 1345 by John Fovas, vicar of Claxton and Henry Brid of Halesworth.


Exterior Features



The diapered east façade must be a cheap copy of the grander version in flushwork at Barsham, six miles to the north. The simple chip-carved ornament and quirked chamfered imposts of the north doorway point to a date around 1120-40. Middleton-Stewart suggests c.1150 for this work.


H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 317.

J. Middleton-Stewart, St Peter’s Church Spexhall Suffolk. Church guide 2000.

D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 3 East Suffolk. Cambridge 1992.

Norfolk Record Office,Will of William Dallyng. 41,Surflete (Mp/K0133)

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 434.

Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 91-94 (on Blythburgh)