A Short Guide to the Church Interior

You will need to use your imagination as you walk with us through the church! We begin our guide from the south porch, which is part of what was originally the Parish Church of All Saints’. On the far side of the arches which divide the church is what was the Parish Church of Saint Margaret – in other words, there were a pair of semi-detached churches, which have now been made into one. The “Short History” of the church (part 1) tells how – and perhaps why – this came about.

There used to be two steps down into St Margaret’s Church (now the main entrance): this was to prevent the rushes which were strewn about the floor to keep people’s feet warm hundreds of years ago, from being blown out, or carried out on people’s boots.

To the left of the south door is the Belfry door leading into the tower, this was the main entrance to All Saints’ Church before the present tower was built in the 15th century.
To enable the new door to be made a window had to be sacrificed. The position of that window is outlined in the plaster above and to the left of the door: a part of the splay which was exposed after the 1941 fire shows the rich ornamentation which was probably typical of the whole church for the first few hundred years of its existence.

To the left of the belfry door, about eight feet above floor level, is an opening in the wall: before the tower was built, stone steps led via this opening into a Priest’s chamber, which must have been supported by beams resting on the floor of the church.

Along the whole of the back of the church (except where the two doors are) are ancient stone seats (now re-surfaced). In mediaeval times these were the only seats provided for public use, and they were normally reserved for the aged and infirm. Hence the saying: “The weakest go to the wall”.

On the south wall near the door is a good water colour of the interior of the church as it was in 1870. At the time the communion rail was at the top of the sanctuary steps, the pulpit on the steps, and the font and lectern in different places from those they now occupy. The present roof (built during the restoration of 1948/49 and repaired more recently) is very similar to the roof, as it was 100 years ago.

Close to the painting is a niche in the wall. It may have been the piscina of a Guild Chapel, of which there were several.

Nearby is an allegorical painting by Mr Jeffery Camp, a local artist, who painted it for the church in 1962/63. Above the Camp painting is the exposed portion of another mediaeval window, similar to that by the south door.

Mid way along the south wall is the exposed portion of another mediaeval window, similar to that by the south door.

Nearby is a marble tablet to the memory of Ann Cunningham, mother of the Rev. Francis Cunningham, Rector of Pakefield from 1814 – 1856. His wife Richenda was a sister of Elizabeth Fry.

The centre panel of the next window is a memorial to Elizabeth Graham Hunt, wife of the late Canon B.P.W. Stather Hunt. Mrs Hunt founded the Pakefield Mother’s Union which is still flourishing, and in itself is a very worthy memorial to her work.

To the left of this window are steps which gave access to the rood loft through an opening in the wall, the size of which (together with the one leading into St. Margaret’s) suggests that normally only small boys ascended the stairs.

The original rood screen was part of Robert Graunt’s work. There were at least twelve panels in each church: the top was probably elaborate, with fan vaulting, but it was destroyed in 1767. The rood itself, which was destroyed in the 16th century, hung from the exact spot from which a large wooden cross is now suspended.

The present screen incorporates seventeen badly mutilated mediaeval panels.  It is by no means a copy of the old screen; the design is simple and original, and each of the twenty spandrels is different, as are the twenty-four tiny heads on the finials of the buttresses: the carving in the spandrels, reading from the north to the south, is as follows:

(1) Cross Keys (St. Peter) (11) Gulls
(2) Sword (St. Paul) (12) Gulls
(3) Chalice (13) Scollops
(4) Paten (14) Scollops
(5) I.H.S. (15) Diocesan Crest (in colour)
(6) M (for Margaret) (16) Lowestoft Crest (in colour)
(7) Hammer & Pincers * (17) Sea Shells
(8) Spear & Sponge* (18) Sea Shells
(9) Seamless Coat & Dice* (19) Fishes
(10) Crown of Thorns & Nails* (20) Fishes

*Those numbered 7 – 10 are the instruments of the Passion.

Returning for a moment to the nave, under the window near the pulpit is a strangely shaped recess in the wall: it is probably part of the altar tomb, possibly dating from the 14th century.

The pulpit was made in 1949, and is a replica of one dating from 1767.  The base upon which it stands, together with the steps, were made in 1937 as a memorial to the Rev. G.W. Sall who was Rector of Pakefield from 1901 – 1921.

The lectern is a replica of a 15th century lectern in Blythburgh Church.  It was given in memory of John Munnings, J.P., for many years headmaster of the Pakefield School, and church warden and organist of the church.

In the chancel of All Saints’ are two brasses: the first is noteworthy because it is one of the earliest depicting a priest in academic dress.  Originally the hood was lined with the colours of his degree.  Translated, the Latin inscription reads as follows:-

HERE LIES MASTER RICHARD FOLCARD, FORMERLY RECTOR OF THE SOUTHERN MEDIETY OF THIS CHURCH, WHO DIED ON ST. MARTIN’S DAY IN THE WINTER (NOV. 11th) IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1451.  ON WHOSE SOUL MAY GOD HAVE MERCY.

From his mouth issues the legend: “I WILL SING OF THE MERCIES OF THE LORD FOR EVER.” (Psalm lxxxix – Vulgate).

Nearby is a modern brass to the memory of Canon B.P.W. Stather Hunt. The following translation of the Latin inscription speaks for itself:-

IN PIOUS MEMORY OF BERNARD PATTESON WATHEN STATHER HUNT, D.D., RECTOR OF THIS PARISH FOR TWENTY FIVE YEARS, CANON OF THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF NORWICH, MEMBER OF THE TOWN COUNCIL OF LOWESTOFT AND THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF EAST SUFFOLK, WHO AT THE BEGINNING OF HIS MINISTRY WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RESTORATION OF THIS CHURCH, AND LATER, AFTER ITS DESTRUCTION BY ENEMY ACTION IN 1941, FOR ITS REBUILDING ALMOST FROM THE FOUNDATIONS.  THIS MONUMENT HAS BEEN ERECTED BY HIS CHILDREN AS A WITNESS TO A DILIGENT AND FAITHFUL PARISH PRIEST.  ‘O HOW AMIABLE ARE THY DWELLINGS.’ PSALM 84. HE DIED IN THE YEAR 1967 AT THE AGE OF 83.

Behind the choir stalls are two niches or recesses in the south wall: these were probably connected with a guild or guilds: the smaller of the two could have been a piscina.

Beyond the choir stalls is the Priest’s door.  A better view of it can be had from outside.

In the centre of All Saints’ chancel, immediately below the step to the communion rails, are two small stones inscribed M.R. and C.E.R.  They commemorate Marianne and Charlotte Elizabeth, aged three months and five months respectively, infant daughters of John Rumpf, Curate of Pakefield from 1836 – 1856, and Rector from 1856 – 1859.  The stones were broken by vandals when the church was derelict during the war years.

At the corner of the window in the sanctuary there is a carved fragment of what appears to be a lion – possibly one of four which may be supposed to have supported a font which was replaced by the present one put into the church by Robert Graunt nearly 600 years ago.  If so, it is perhaps the oldest piece of masonry in the church.

The small figure in the south east window was found in an old house many years ago, and was given to Canon Hunt in 1940.  It could have belonged to the church prior to the wholesale destruction of the 17th century.

The smaller of the two windows in the sanctuary is a reconstruction of a mediaeval window which was replaced by a larger square window in the 15th century.  After the fire in 1941, this section of wall collapsed, and the eastern side of this window was disclosed.  After the war the older window was restored, and to make this possible, the three light square window had to be reduced to two lights. At the same time, the sedilia which had been done away with in order to make a straight sill in the 15th century, was restored.

There is a very unusual inscription in the east window – commemorating “twenty five years Protestant Evangelical Ministry” by the Rev. Lewis Price.

The altar in All Saints’ – plain and rather austere in design, is modern. Kept inside the altar is the old “town chest”.  Originally it had three keys, one for the Rector, and one for each of the church wardens, so that all three had to be present when it was opened.  It is late Elizabethan or early Jacobean.

The floor of the sanctuary is several feet higher than the floor of the nave, because when All Saints’ was lengthened in the 15th century, a crypt was built below the sanctuary, thus necessitating the high level floor.

The doorway on the north side of the sanctuary was originally the entrance to the spiral stairway leading to the crypt.  To the north of the door is an “apse” which is all that remains of the wall at the top of the spiral staircase.

Leading down from the “apse” to St. Margaret’s sanctuary, are some stone steps which date from the 14th century.

The altar in St. Margaret’s is Elizabethan.  It should not be thought that St. Margaret’s is a Lady Chapel – it is the ancient Parish Church of that name.  In this respect Pakefield Church is quite unique.

The organ is above the vestry and altar.  It is the third organ that the church has had: the first was installed in 1861; the second in 1931; and the present instrument was built in 1952 to replace the 1931 organ which had been largely destroyed by fire in 1941.  The console is some distance away in All Saints’ chancel. Apart from £800 contributed by the War Damage Commission, the whole cost of replacing the organ, some £2,325, was raised by a Canteen Committee, which continued in being after the war, in order to raise the money required. The organ hides the 14th century east window of St. Margaret’s.

On the north wall, near the communion rail, is a memorial to Canon Hunt.  The inscription reads as follows:-

“THIS MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF PAKEFIELD IN THANKSGIVING TO GOD FOR BERNARD PATTESON WATHEN STATHER HUNT, D.D., HONORARY CANON OF NORWICH CATHEDRAL AND RECTOR OF THIS PARISH 1927 – 1953.  HE RESTORED THE CHURCH BEFORE THE SECOND WORLD WAR ONLY TO SEE IT DESTROYED BY FIRE AFTER AN AIR RAID IN 1941.  HIS PERSONAL DEVOTION AND EXAMPLE INSPIRED THE PARISH TO SUCH ENDEAVOUR THAT THE CHURCH WAS REBUILT AND REDEDICATED ON THE 29TH JANUARY 1950.”

In the centre of the chancel, and just outside the sanctuary, is the grave of the Reverend Phillip Richardson, the last Rector of St. Margaret’s before the two medieties were united in 1748.  He was also Rector of Kirkley, which had been without a church for many years.

On the north wall are several niches, which may have held paintings of saints, though nothing definite is known about them.

About half way along the north wall is the Bowf brass, so placed in order to prevent further damage.  The slab in which it was originally set can be can be seen just outside the chancel.  It is of conventional design, and shows John Bowf and his wife Agnes, with their two sons and nine daughters at their feet.  Beneath is an inscription, which (freely translated) reads:-

“WE MUST ALL GO HENCE; WHITHER OR WHEN NO MAN CAN KNOW BUT GOD ABOVE.  WE PROVIDE FOR OTHERS (BUT) WE MUST GO HENCE QUITE POOR AND NAKED.”  THUS SAID JOHN BOWF.

The Inscription bordering the Brass is incomplete, but it appears to read as follows:

“HERE LIE JOHN BOWF AND AGNES HIS WIFE WHO DIED IN THE YEAR 1417; ALSO THEIR TWO SONS ….. ON WHOSE SOULS MAY GOD HAVE MERCY.  AMEN. “

At the east of the window near the north door, there is a pedestal, with what appears to be a step or shelf below it.  The pedestal probably held a statue of the patron, Saint Margaret, while the step below could have been for the candles which the faithful would offer and burn in her honour.

This theory seems to be probably correct, since Archbishop Peckham (1278 – 1294) ordered that the image of the patron saint should be put up in every parish church.  It is quite likely that when the windows were altered in the 15th century, this pedestal was moved to its present position.

A foot or so from the north door there is a hole through the whole thickness of the wall: each end is covered by glass.  This is where a horizontal beam was embedded in the wall in order to support scaffolding as the wall progressed upwards.  When no longer needed, the ends would have been sawn off.  The sawn-off end of a similar beam is apparent at the same level in the west wall, close to the north door (rows of similar sawn-off beams can be seen in the ruins of Leiston Abbey).

Close to the sawn-off beam in the west wall, encircled by red paint, are the remains of an ancient consecration cross.

Near to the north door is a list showing the Rectors of the two “medieties” before they were joined in 1748, and the names of all the Rectors of the united medieties since that date.  These lists are illustrative of the history of the church, but no significance should be attached to the fact that there are no names earlier than the 14th century, as it was not until then that records had to be kept.

The font is possibly the “prototype” of the “East Anglian” fonts.  Two of its panels contain the “rich hart” – the emblem or “rebus” of Richard II, which is hardly likely to have been carved after his death in 1399.  All other fonts of this type are thought to date from the 15th century, so that this is almost certainly the oldest. (A “rebus” is an “enigmatic representation of a name or word by pictures, etc, suggesting its syllables”; thus “Rich Hart” sounds very much like “Richard”.)  The decorative figures were badly mutilated by Cromwell’s commissioner Dowsing in 1664.

There are several corbels – mostly in St. Margaret’s, along the top of the dividing wall, where they originally helped to support the roof.  Their survival indicates that the wall was not demolished when the arches were inserted.

Finally, hidden below the tower is the sarcen stone (not now in view) which is so vital a clue in piecing together the history of these two ancient churches, which are now one.