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St Peter, Gunton, Suffolk

(52°29′59″N, 1°44′37″E)
TM 542 957
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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Gunton is now a northern suburb of Lowestoft; the church standing between modern housing and the Pleasurewood Hills family leisure park, which occupies the site of Gunton Hall to the N of the church. The medieval village had all but disappeared by 1602, when the population was only three. By 1821 it had grown to 87, and in 1868 it was described as a small village two miles NW of Lowestoft whose principal residences were the New and Old Halls (National Gazetteer). St Peter’s consists of a nave and chancel in one without a chancel arch, and with a S porch to the nave and a N vestry to the chancel, and a round W tower. The church fell into disrepair in the 17thc., and was restored under the patronage of Charles Boyce, the work being completed in 1700. It again fell into ruin, and was restored again by the Fowlers of Gunton Hall in 1899-1901. This restoration was very complete: the roofs were retiled, the E wall was demolished to ground level and rebuilt, most of the windows were replaced and all the nave and chancel walls were rebuilt from the tops of the windows. The 19thc. flintwork is easily distinguishable from the older work. Nave and chancel are 12thc., with some original quoins surviving and elaborate N and S nave doorways. One N nave window and the blocked remains of a S chancel window are also of that date. Other windows have Y-tracery or are plain pointed lancets, but most belong to the 1899-1901 restoration. The E window is a 19thc. triplet, but above it in the gable is what seems to be a genuine 13thc. lancet, that must have been re-set when the wall was rebuilt. The S porch appears 15thc., of flint and brick, although it has sometimes been dated to the 17thc. restoration and the 19thc. N chancel vestry is of flint. The 12thc. tower (see the tower arch) has two 13thc. lancets in its W face, but the bell-openings are 15thc. (again, sometimes dated to Boyce’s restoration). The plain parapet is of brick. To the N of the church, separated by approximately three metres from the nave wall, is a parish room of 1990, known as the annexe. This is of flint, in a stripped Romanesque style. In the porch is an octagonal shaft on an octagonal base, supporting the worn and damaged octagonal bowl of a 13thc. font or stoup. Romanesque sculpture is found on the N and S nave doorways and the plain tower arch is also recorded here.


The village of Gunton recorded under Norfolk in the Domesday Survey is not this one, but another of the same name in North Erpingham Hundred, North Norfolk, 5 miles S of Cromer.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

It is unusual that the N doorway should be more elaborate than the S especially if, as here, it is also smaller in size and unprotected by a porch. The obvious answer is that they have been modified, or even switched, in one of the restorations, but the arrangement may also relate to the position of Gunton Hall, to the N of the church. This chevron profile is common in the neighbouring hundreds of Mutford and Wangford, comparable examples being found At St Andrew's Ilketshall, All Saints Mettingham and St Peter's Redisham. In all those cases, however, the other decorative elements are more elaborate. A date in the 1130s is suggested.

Anon., A Short Guide to the Parish Church of Gunto St Peter, Lowestoft, Suffolk. Undated church guide.
Anon., The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland. London 1868.
H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 266.
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, 242.