Rector: the Reverend Tim Rogers
The Rectory, The Street, Darsham, Saxmundham, IP17 3QA
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A Church Near You
The print on the south wall of the nave by Henry Davy of Ipswich illustrates the church before it was substantially rebuilt in 1860-61. The print is dated 1845 and Whites Directory of Suffolk 1855 describes the church as “….small ancient edifice with a tower and five bells”. Of the “ancient edifice” the only significant parts that remain are the tower (15th century with the exception of the upper portion which is Victorian) and the north porch which is reputed to be 15th century all earlier.
Fortunately the major rebuilding of 1860-61 is well documented. The church minute book for the period records the following :-
“May 22nd 1860. At a vestry meeting held this day for the purpose of giving J W Brooke Esq. an opportunity of laying before the meeting his plans for the restoration of the church; when that gentleman stated that he was most desirous of restoring the church according to the plans then submitted and of doing so at his own expense whereupon it was proposed by the Revd. S Westhorp curate, seconded by Mr Thomas White churchwarden and unanimously agreed by the meeting that a vote of thanks be accorded him for his liberality and that he be allowed to take all the materials arising from the edifice towards its restoration.
Harrison Packard Incumbent
S M Westhorp - Chairman
Thomas White & James Josiah Smyth - Churchwardens”
Confirmation that the restoration was carried out is provide by an entry in Kelly's Post Office Directory of Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk 1869 “Peasenhall. The church of St Michael is a handsome Gothic building, principally of flint and quoined with stone; it consists of nave, chancel, north porch and tower; through the liberality and at the sole expense of J W Brooke Esq. of Sibton Park, the nave and chancel were taken down and rebuilt in 1860 and 1861. At the same time the tower was repaired and heightened by voluntary subscriptions”
Robert Dennis Chantrell (1793-1872)of London was the architect of the 1860-61 restoration; construction was in the hands of Henry Ringham (1806-1866) of Ipswich, who has been described as a master joiner and carver whose speciality was roofs and benches; he worked on a great many Suffolk churches. Henry Ringham was assisted by Daniel Fulcher (1805-c. 1872), surveyor, of Lowestoft.
Alterations within the church have continued over the years. The following extracts from applications for a faculty (consent) illustrate some of the changes or additions that have occurred :-
10th December 1894
“To replace the existing organ (in bad condition) with a new organ and also to erect a gallery at the west end of the nave for the purpose of placing the new organ there and for the accommodation of the choir thereby giving extra seats in the church”
The new organ was the gift of Ralph Alexander Mac Smyth a managing director of Smyth and sons Ltd whose seed drill manufactotory adjoined the south part of the churchyard. Clearly the seating capacity of the church was insufficient notwithstanding that the 1860-61 rebuild had increased the nave by some ten feet.
18th September 1899
1) “to remove font from its present position in the tower of the church…to a position in the west end of the nave”
2) “to move the pulpit from its present position in the centre of the nave to the south end of the nave close to the wall of the chancel arch”
These alterations also involved the rearrangement of some of the seating. An estimate from Howard Bros. builders and contractors of 7 New Cut, Halesworth for the work described which include a new base for the font, a new set of steps for the pulpit and a polished brass rail and the resiting of a number of seats in different locations within the nave, amounted to the sum of £18.10.0.
2nd April 1947
“To remove the organ from the nave to the balcony and to install electric blowing apparatus”. Whether the organ was sited in the gallery around 1894 as proposed is unclear. However, it is believed that it was the Reverend E A Cooke (vicar of St Michael's 1892-1925) had the organ resited to the north side of the nave near the chancel wall, as he is reputed to have both officiated at services and to have played the organ! The organ was made by Alfred Monk of 550 Holloway Road, London.
8th February 1954
“To replace the existing pulpit with a new oak pulpit, in memory of the late vicar Samuel Woodard Chorlton. Vicar from 1926-1945”.
5th June 1961
1) ”to erect an Old Oak Screen in 3 parts (14th cent. removed from the Swan Inn, Peasenhall) in the Parish Church of Peasenhall”.
The screen or panelling is the style known as “linen-fold”. Two parts of the panelling are fitted in the sanctuary, with the third section in the meeting room at the west end of the church.
4)”To install an Ancient Brass Alms Dish c. 1600 with the words“To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Robert Wemyss Symonds, FRIBBA FSA of the Ancient House, Peasenhall, Dec 31 1889 - Sept 5th 1958”.
There is an interesting link between St Michael's and St Margaret's church Lowestoft. The parochial church council minute book for the period 1909-1952 contains the following entry for a meeting on September 14th 1918:-
“Rev. Cooke reported that through Mr Thirtle a new alter had been given to the church by the churchwardens at St Margaret's church, Lowestoft. It was proposed by Mr H Pepper seconded by Mr W Nicholls and carried that a vote of thanks be sent to the Churchwardens and Church Council for their gift”.
The Mr Thirtle referred to undoubtedly was Thomas Henry Thirtle a Lowestoft man who for some years was Rector's warden at St Margaret's church. He had married one of the Smyth family, the seed drill manufacturers and from around 1919 to his death in 1938, he was managing director of the company.
In 1912-3 the west end of the nave was utilised to create a meeting room by the provision of a sliding / folding wooden screen which replicates the linen fold design of the panelling from the former Swann Inn. The project included extending the gallery (the metal balustrade of the Victorian gallery was retained) and providing toilet facilities. At the same time the font was re-located to its present position on the south side of the nave.
Like many churches St Michael's has been altered and adapted to meet changing circumstances and the needs of a particular time.
The above history is taken from the pamphlet - The Church of St Michael and all Angels Peasenhall - a History and Guide.