We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Mary Magdalene, Westerfield, Suffolk

(52°5′2″N, 1°10′22″E)
TM 175 476
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=8729.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Westerfield is a village at the northern edge of Ipswich, where the town gives way to arable farmland. It clusters around a crossroads where a minor road cuts the B1077 that meanders N from Ipswich to Debenham and Eye. The church is on the lesser road, just E of the crossroads, and consists of an unaisled and mortar rendered nave and chancel in one, without a chancel arch, and a W tower. The nave and chancel windows all have two-light intersecting tracery ofc.1300 except for two 13thc chancel windows, the S one blocked. There is no S doorway; a 12thc. doorway in the normal position having been blocked in a major restoration of 1867, and its carved stones reset inside the church in the sill, arch and jambs of the window that replaced it. This window is a copy of others in the nave, and alongside remains the stoup, which would originally have been in the porch next to the doorway. Henry Davy's etching of the exterior in 1842 shows that the doorway was protected by a small embattled porch, described by David Elisha Davy in 1829 as being modern and of red brick. On the N side of the church is a flint Church Room, with a hall, vestry and kitchen. This was built in 1986-87 and provides access to the church through the N nave doorway. It replaced a brick schoolroom, added to the nave in 1840, which was successively a school, a Sunday school and a vestry before it was taken down in 1986. A vestry on the S side of the chancel was taken down in 1840 when the schoolroom was added. The W tower is of flint with diagonal buttresses at the W but none at the E. It has an embattled parapet with flushwork decoration. The tower may date fromc.1300, but its W doorway and window are 15thc. Its bell openings have lost their tracery. The interior is dominated by a magnificent hammerbeam roof, continuous over nave and chancel. The only 12thc work surviving here are voussoirs from the old S doorway, now reset in the SW nave window surrounds, and two carved stones reused in the exterior walls of the tower.


According to the Domesday Survey, Westerfield comprised various smallis holdings but only one Anglo-Saxon manor. This was Beorn's, with 1 carucate of ploughland and 2 acres of meadow. It was held by Norman from Count Alan in 1086. For the rest, Wulfgeat held 60 acres belonging to Rushmere St Andrew, and two men commended to him held a further 6½ acres. This was all held by Humphrey from Robert Malet in 1086. Robert Malet also held 10 acres, formerly belonging to a free man. Asrothr held 25 acres and Thorkil held 8 acres from the abbot of Ely before the Conquest; both held by Hervey from the abbot in 1086. Ordric held 8 acres before the Conquest, held by Hugh de Montfort in 1086. Langfer held 14 acres before the Conquest, held by William de Bouville from Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1086. Five free men held 25 acres and 1 virgate, held by Gerald from Roger de Rames in 1086. 1 free man held 16 acres, held by Arnold from Roger de Rames in 1086. Almaer held 30 acres before the Conquest, held by Turstin from Walter the Deacon in 1086. Three free men held 28 acres, held by Bernard and Almaer from Walter the Deacon in 1086, and 1 free man held six acres, held by Norman from Walter the Deacon in 1086. Under the holdings of Vavassors (vassals) in 1086 are six named free men who held 15 acres between them. Two entries might relate to the church. Half a church with 7½ acres is listed under the holdings of Roger de Poitou, and Aelfric the Priest held 12 acres with 2 acres of meadow. The last of these looks very much like church land, and Tricker appears to assume that it was. About 1259 the manor of Westerfield came into the Weyland family, as the result of a grant from Alan, Lord Burnell, of Acton Burnell, in Shropshire. It remained in this family at least until 1369, when the direct line failed. It subsequently passed to the Tuddenhams by marriage, and the Bedingfields, both in the 15thc. It was acquired by William Dameron in 1552 from Anthony Bedingfield and others.

Benefice of Westerfield and Tuddenham St Martin with Witnesham.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


The window head (III.3.d.(i)) does not seem to have been note previously, and can be compared with the rather better preserved example at St Michael's, Hunston, which is also reused. The remains of the south doorway point to at least two orders of arch carved with chevron. It is interesting that no two voussoirs of the more complex type are the same, although they are similar enough that they must belong to the same order. No close parallels for this combination of simple thin-roll chevron and chip-carving have yet been found in Suffolk. It probably dates fromc.1130-50.

H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 335.
W. A. Coppinger, The Manors of Suffolk. Notes on their history and devolution. 7 vols, London 1905-11, II, 368-71.
D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 2 Central Suffolk. Cambridge 1990, 222-24.
A. Hyde and N. Perkins, Westerfield Church and Village, 1087-1987. 1987.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 478.
R. Tricker, A Guide to the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Westerfield, Suffolk. 2nd ed. 1994.