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St Peter, Henley, Suffolk

(52°7′7″N, 1°9′7″E)
TM 159 514
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Henley is a substantial but compact village 4 miles N of the centre of Ipswich in hilly farmland. The land is now used mainly for cereals and sugar beet, but in 1086 it included pasture and woodland too. The church stands in the centre of the village, its small graveyard surrounded by houses. St Peter's consists of a nave with a large N vestry, chancel and W tower. The flint nave is 12thc. in origin, with a remodelled S doorway decorated with chevron under a 19thc. porch. The 13thc. N doorway now provides access to a knapped flint vestry; originally the village school of 1838, but rebuilt here in 1904 to serve as vestry and Sunday school. The nave windows are generally 15thc. and renewed, except for a three-light terracotta window in the S wall dating from the 1520s and probably taken from Old Shrubland Hall (demolished in the 19thc.). The nave originally ended just W of the lateral doorways, but was extended westwards when the tower was added c.1500. Nave and chancel are of equal width and there is no chancel arch. The flint chancel retains its 13thc. piscina and aumbry, and has 13thc. lancets on the N and 14thc. windows on the S, but it was rebuilt in 1894. The tower arch is tall and the flint tower itself has diagonal buttresses to the W with flushwork decoration, a Perpendicular W window and bell-openings, and a battlemented parapet of brick. An inscription over the W door asks for prayers for the soul of Thomas Seckford and his wife, Margaret. Seckford was a clothier who died in 1505 and was presumably responsible for funding the new tower. Major restorations took place here in 1846, 1894-95 and 1904, and another was in progress, involving the nave roof, in November 2005. The S doorway is described below, along with a capital re-set alongside it.


Before the Conquest, Tepekin a free man commended to Harold held Henley as a manor with two carucates of ploughland. The manor also included eight acres of meadow, woodland for six pigs and a church with two acres of land. It was held by Eudo the Steward in his demesne, from Roger d'Auberville in 1086, and eight acres were added to it. A second manor was held by Wulfric before the Conquest. This comprised one carucate and 70 acres of ploughland, four acres of meadow and a church with eight acres. In 1086 the manor was held by Roger from Walter the Deacon. In 1086 Roger also held (from Walter) 36 acres formerly held by six free men, and Walter himself held in demesne a manor of 40 acres, formerly held by Swein, a free man. Other smaller holdings were listed in 1086. 3 acres held by a free man commended to Stanwine under Harold, which Humphrey held from Robert Malet in 1086; six acres held by a free man before the Conquest that were held by Roger de Poitou in 1086; half an acre previously held by a free woman that was held by Roger de Poitou in 1086; and half an acre held by a free man under the commendation and soke of St Aethelthryth (Ely priory) in 1086. Finally, amongst the lands of Isaac, the Domesday tenant in chief, were 16 acres of free land in Henley, but belonging to Hemingstone, and included in its valuation. Domesday thus lists three manors, which must have been merged into one or (following Coppinger) two. In the reign of John, the Bishop of Norwich exercised rights here as he was granted the view of frankpledge (a policing system where the inhabitants of a community were responsible each other’s behaviour) here by the crown. The prior of Norwich was also granted free warren here in 1307. In 1239 the manor is stated to have passed from John Sturmyn to his son Robert, but by 1259 Henley Manor was held by John de Weyland. It later belonged to the Honor of Eye, and was included in the grant of this by Edward III to his brother, John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall. John died childless, and by 1349 the manor was in the hands of Bartholomew de Burghersh (Lord Burghersh) and he and his wife Cecily de Weyland were granted free warren on their lands at Henley and elsewhere in that year. It seems likely that the land came to Burghersh through his wife’s descent from John de Weyland. On Burghersh’s death it passed to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Edward Despenser. Coppinger suggested that Henley Hall was the other manor, and this was inherited by John Dameron from his father, William, in 1558.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


The S doorway was apparently remodelled in the 13thc., when the jambs were replaced, capitals and presumably imposts removed, a pointed arch constructed from reused voussoirs, and the label reused as a second order. The voussoirs with two units of chevron may have been produced at that time, but this would be difficult to confirm without removing the overall paint layer. The nearby capital may have been re-set there later and may have belonged to the 12thc. doorway. The capital type and chevron ornament suggest a date in the 1130s or ‘40s for the original doorway. The same chevron profile occurs on the N doorway of St Martin’s, Tuddenham, nearby. Cautley calls the capital 'half-worked', but I see no evidence of this.

Benefice of Coddenham with Gosbeck and Hemingstone with Henley.

H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937, 271.
W. A. Coppinger, The Manors of Suffolk. Notes on their history and devolution. 7 vols, London 1905, II, 320-22.
D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 2 Central Suffolk. Cambridge 1990, 115-16.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 265.