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Holy Trinity, Barsham, Suffolk

(52°27′6″N, 1°31′34″E)
TM 397 896
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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Holy Trinity looks conventional from the S, bizarre from the E and a complete mess from the N. It has a thatched nave of flint with one 12thc. window in the N wall, with a head reportedly of Caen stone. The S nave doorway has a flint porch, the N is unprotected. A two-bay N aisle was added as a chapel to St Catherine by F.C. Eden in 1908; Perpendicular in style but low and without a clerestorey. It does not extend to the W end, terminating E of the N doorway. On the exterior it is of rendered flint with a low, almost flat, lead roof. The W tower is round and has three phases. The lowest level is of flint with slightly pointed lancets to the cardinal directions. The E lancet is inside the church; the W has moulded decoration. Below it is an inserted Perpendicular W window. The next stage is of flint with signs of large blocked windows visible in the stonework. The top stage, probably 16thc., employs decorative bands of brick on the flint and has Perpendicular bell openings. The chamfered parapet is of brick.

At the E end of the nave, the aisleless chancel is of flint, roofed with tiles, red at the bottom and grey at the ridge. To the N is an organ chamber and vestry added in 1877. This is of knapped flint with a red tile double-pitched roof, and unlike the rest of the church it has never been rendered. The E chancel window is large and entirely filled with a tracery of lozenges, and the rest of the E wall continues this trellis in flushwork. As it stands the window dates from a restoration of the chancel in 1906 following a lightning strike, but 19thc. drawings show that the design is older than this, and a good deal of speculation attends its dating (see comments below). Romanesque features described here are the tower W window and a Sussex marble font, now disused, in the chancel.


Before the Conquest the manor was held by Leofstan the priest from Gyrth, King Harold's brother. In 1086 it was held by Robert de Vaux from Roger Bigod. The holding included half a church with 20 acres. Byc.1270-90 it had passed to Robert de Barsham, thence by marriage to Henry son of Roger de Wellington (by 1327) and by further marriages to the de Tyes and then the Etchinghams, where it remained until the death of Sir Edward Etchingham in 1527. Robert Hume, former chaplain to Sir Edward, was appointed rector in 1533, serving to 1554.

Wainford benefice, i.e. Ringsfield, Redisham, Barsham with Shipmeadow, Mettingham and Ilketshall St Andrew.


Exterior Features





The curious treatment of the E end has been dated to the 14thc. (Pevsner), the 16thc. (Cautley) and the 17thc. (Bryant). The design reflects the Etchingham arms (azure fretty or), and Cautley attributes this facade to Sir Edward (d.1527) whose tomb is in the chancel. The font was called Purbeck marble by Pevsner but is not. Another Sussex marble font, made in the 13thc. and to a different design, is at Thorington nearby.

T. H. Bryant, County Churches. Suffolk. 2 vols London 1912
J. Buchanan, The Church of the Most Holy Trinity Barsham with Shipmeadow, Beccles Suffolk. 1998, revised 2000
H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 222-23.
D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 3 E Suffolk, Cambridge 1992..
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 87-88..
A. Suckling, The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk, I. London 1846, 35-46.