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St Margaret, South Elmham St Margaret, Suffolk

(52°24′18″N, 1°24′1″E)
South Elmham St Margaret
TM 314 840
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • 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.

St Margaret's village consists of a scattering of houses and the church along a minor road running on the S side of the Beck, a tributary of the Waveney. Alongside the church to the S is the parkland surrounding South Elmham Hall. The hall itself is 0.6 m SW of the church, in the neighbouring parish of South Elmham St Cross (qv). The church is of flint, with a nave, chancel and W tower. The nave is 12thc., with a S doorway and a S window of that date. The S doorway is protected by a two-storey porch of knapped flint and brick, probably 15thc. The N doorway is blocked and has a pointed segmental head. Perpendicular windows were added to the nave in the 15thc., one on the S side and two on the N. There is a N rood stair. The chancel is 15thc. to judge from its windows and an ogee-headed wall tomb on the N side. Also on the N is a 19thc. pseudo-chapel of knapped flint, housing the organ and a vestry (Pevsner considers it early 14thc., and it is certainly in that style). The chancel arch is 19thc. The tower is 14thc., with a very tall tower arch, a W window with flowing tracery, 14thc. bell-openings, a polygonal SE stair and diagonal buttresses with flushwork. The top of it is flat and leaded. The church was thoroughly restored in 1838. The S doorway is the only feature with Romanesque sculpture.


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



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, 428-29.
R. Tricker, All Saints' Church South Elmham Suffolk. London (Churches Conservation Trust) 1996, 1.