Touching place St Margaret, Westhorpe, Suffolk

You get some pleasant surprises in deepest Suffolk, and Westhorpe
church is right up there with the best of them. When you think Suffolk Perpendicular, churches like Lavenham and Long Melford tend to come to mind, but compared with the organic early Perp. of Westhorpe, they are just MFI flatpack architecture. Mind you, Westhorpe fooled Pevsner, as it has one of those early Perp. towers whose window tracery has its distinctly Curvilinear moments.

The clue to its dating lies in two wills first, in 1403 Sir William Elmham left 80 to the steeple and chapel where his father and mother and grandfather were buried, then in 1419 his widow Dame Elizabeth said that the tower, two aisles and a chapel of St James were to be completed at her expense (she also gave 40 towards the bells). The style of the tower and its chequerboard parapet puts you in mind of Stowlangtoft, about six miles away.

When you step through the south door, you enter a church of great charm and character, uncluttered and the antithesis of the archetypal neat Victorian restoration, epitomized in the uneven floors. The Big Six on the high altar tell you that Westhorpe has known heady times. There is a lovely 14th c. parclose screen surrounding the S. chapel, across the nave from the 15th c. pulpit. One small 17th c. box pew survives, not far from the font could it be a churching pew? At the E. end of the N. aisle, something rather exotic, the memorial to a man in a nightshirt. Maurice Barrow may have been a Parliamentarian, but clearly liked a splash.

He had already built the vault when he died in 1665, and left 500 for the monument and the iron gate in front of it.

Ponder: what monument do we leave behind ourselves?

Map reference: TM 043 692

Simon Cotton

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