halesworth

A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.

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Volume 1



church



The Saxon Church

The Church made a speedy recovery from the ravages of the invaders. The Bishopric of East Anglia was restored in the early 10th century, the monastic life was revived at Bury St. Edmunds and new churches were being founded all over the county by lords of the manors or groups of freemen. Norman Scarfe has researched the Domesday Book Survey and shows that roughly 80% of the medieval churches in Suffolk had already been establishe by the time of the Norman invasion of 1066.

Not many of these Saxon churches have survived, and only a few examples of their stonework or decoration exist in East Anglia. Two special buildings which give us some idea of how they looked are in Essex, the earliest is the church of St Peter on the Wall at Bradwell on Sea, which tradition tells us was built by St Cedd about 654 AD. Much of it has gone, as the building was used as a barn for many years. The other is the wooden church at Greenstead dedicated to St.Andrew, the nave is built of oak logs split vertically in half and joined together with timber pegs. Although it was once thought to have been built in the 10th century, research into the dating of trees has suggested a more probable date of c.850 AD.

There was almost certainly a church standing on the site of the present St. Mary's Church in Halesworth in Saxon times, for the Domesday record speaks of 40 acres of land which was held by Ulf the Priest in King Edward's time, and this was the land which later became the Rectory Manor. The early church was probably a wooden thatched structure, but later it had a round tower like Holton or Wisset, for its foundations were revealed in the restoration of the Church in the 1880's. There was most probably a small nave and sanctuary, a type of church which was common to the period, and imbedded in the south wall of the chancel, just below the piscina, are the famous 'Danestones' which were discovered in the alterations of the church in 1889. These appear to be Scandinavian in origin, and consist of hands holding vines which writhe over a panel which is broken in half and damaged in places. They have been dated to be as early as the late 9th century, and if so could have formed part of the early church. More recent opinion suggests a date of the 11th century.


danestone



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