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St Peter, South Elmham St Peter, Suffolk

(52°24′43″N, 1°26′0″E)
South Elmham St Peter
TM 336 849
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

The seven South Elmham villages, St James, All Saints, St Nicholas, St Cross, St Margaret, St Michael and St Peter, to which may be added Homersfield, sometimes referred to as South Elmham St Mary, lie in a scattered group between Bungay and Halesworth in NE Suffolk, to the W of the Roman road known as Stone Street. North Elmham (the centre of the see until 1071) is over 30 miles away, to the NW of Norwich, and both apparently took their name from Aethelmaer (bishop of East Anglia 1047-1070) the landholder before the Conquest. This is not certain; Tricker suggests that the name meant villages where elm trees grew. The land here is flat, generally arable and sparsely populated; the villages rarely more than a few houses clustered around the church without shops or pubs.

South Elmham St Peter consists of a few houses around a T-junction of byways with the church more or less at the junction. It is on the N side of a branch of the Beck, a minor tributary of the Waveney. St Peter's Hall is 0.3 m NE of the church, and is a stone building including 15thc. tracery windows that might have come from a religious foundation (Pevsner suggests the demolished church of South Elmham St Nicholas or Flixton Priory). The flint church consists of nave, chancel and W tower; the nave with a 12thc. S doorway under a 15thc. flint and brick porch. The blocked N nave doorway is of the late-12thc. or early-13thc. The nave windows include one with Y-tracery (c.1300) on the N and the remainder are 15thc. The chancel arch is 13thc. and has signs indicating the removal of a screen. On the N side of the chancel is a blocked arch, indicating that a chapel has been removed. There are no windows on this side, but those on the S and E have Y-tracery or intersecting tracery, pointing to a datec.1300. The 14thc. tower is tall and tapers markedly towards the top. It is of whole and broken flints and has a NE polygonal stair. The tower arch is tall, and the tower has diagonal buttresses with chequerwork, similar to that at South Elmham St Cross. Like St Cross too, the battlemented parapet has flushwork tracery decoration. The two nave doorways are described below, although the N doorway may be 13thc.


The land that became the South Elmhams was part of an ancient deanery given to the bishops of East Anglia while they were at Dunwich in the 7thc., and the ruins of the ancient minster that served the area survive in the parish of St Cross. The South Elmhams, known variously as Almaham, Almeham, Elmeham and Halmeham in the Domesday Survey, were still held by the Bishops of East Anglia immediately before the Conquest and in 1086. They remained in the possession of the bishops throughout the middle ages. The Domesday Survey does not allow the different manors to be distinguished with any certainty.

Benefice of South Elmham and Ilketshall.


Exterior Features



Stylistically the S doorway belongs to the early 12thc. The sawtooth-decorated bases; its most distinctive feature, have not been encountered elsewhere in the area. The N doorway is certainly later, perhapsc.1200.

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, 429-30.
R. Tricker, All Saints' Church South Elmham Suffolk. London (Churches Conservation Trust) 1996, 1