St Peter & St Paul
Suffolk CO10 9QT
Dominating Lavenham and visible for miles around, is the huge parish church of St Peter and St Paul. This magnificent stone building occupies the highest point on the ridge, presiding over the medieval village below.
The old Saxon church was remodelled in the 15th century in an act of thanksgiving for the Tudor victory at the Battle of Bosworth. The principal benefactors were the Lord of the Manor, John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and a number of the richest cloth merchants in the town, mainly the Spryng Family.
It was one of the last ‘wool churches’ to be built in Suffolk before the Tudor Reformation put a stop to the building of elaborate private chantries within churches. In Lavenham, beautifully carved screens hide a wealth of lavish tombs, monuments and brasses.
Lavishly Decorated Late Perpendicular Style
Built between 1480 and 1530 the architecture is late Perpendicular lavishly decorated both inside and out with superb stone carving. Some of the old church can still be seen – the chancel is circa 1340 and the eastern vestry circa 1440.
The building is peppered with the coats-of-arms of the De Vere and Spryng families. They are carved into the ceiling rafters and oak screens, and in the stonework above the doors and friezes below the clerestory. The De Vere arms feature a star and boar’s head.
Entry is through the south porch. The sculpted Apostles decorating the outside are 19th century but inside are a marvellous medieval fan-vaulted ceiling and a beautiful linen-fold carved oak door.
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14th Century Misericords
Look for the exquisite 14th Century Misericords in the Quire depicting strange half human/half animal creatures. The medieval carvers really had fun with these - one, half-woman, half beast is playing a viol, and another, half-man with the hindquarters and tail of a beast, is mimicking her by playing a pair of bellows with a crutch.
On the north side, the Spryng chapel is separated from the main body of the church by a beautifully carved wooden screen dedicated to St Blaize, the patron saint of wool combers. The saint is depicted wearing his Bishop’s mitre, carrying his crozier in his left hand and a wood comb in his right.
Bishop Blaize was born in Armenia in the third century. A Christian, he became a bishop but was persecuted for his condemnation of idolatry and brought to trial, tortured, imprisoned and finally beheaded in 298 AD. Part of Bishop Blaize's torture was having his flesh torn by an iron comb as used by wool combers.
Enthusiastic friendly Volunteers
The whole building is a testament to the local population who have cherished their church for centuries. On the day we visited an enthusiastic band of male and female volunteers were dusting and polishing their beloved church. One of them stopped his work to guide us around, pointing out the many interesting features.
We remarked on the colourful kneeling hassocks worked in exquisite needlepoint and were advised that they were the work of the local parishioners.
The tower rises to a height of 141 feet (about 41 metres) and provides spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Well worth the climb!
The impressive church stands in the middle of a large graveyard filled with ancient tombstones. Beautifully shaped and manicured privet shrubs line the paths leading to the entrance porch. At night the floodlit building makes a spectacular sight.
Plan your Visit
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Services & Disabled Access
The Lavenham church has a regular choir, a band of bell ringers and welcomes disabled visitors with a hearing induction loop, large print hymn books and Orders of Service, and a disability ramp.
Special Events & Live Music/ Concerts
Details of special events and music performances can be found by clicking on the web address below.
Summer: 08:30 to 18:00 hours
Winter: 09:00 to 16:00 hours
Free but please make a donation to help with the upkeep of this glorious church.
Visitor parking; a small shop in the tower space; Guide books and leaflets.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1787 247 244
Google Maps - St Peter & St Paul Church Lavenham