Holy Trinity, Barsham
Outdoor temperature: 4.1˚C; indoor temperature 6.1˚C, humidity: 51%
I hadn’t planned to visit another church in the morning before setting off for Stansted airport, via Bury St Edmunds to drop off my cello at a friend’s house. But before I went to bed the previous evening it occurred to me that it would be possible, if I was a little organised about packing up. 7 churches felt like a respectable total for a stay of less than two days.
There were several churches along the main road from Beccles to Bungay, which seemed a good choice in terms of not wasting too much time if one was locked, though I had my doubts about the practicalities of stopping on such a road. I found Barsham church set well back, however, down a track with a farmhouse for a neighbour. This time I wasn’t surprised to find yet another round-towered church – with a unique double-patterned thatched roof – but it was certainly surprising to find it in such a peaceful setting.
As soon as I entered I was doubly glad to have decided on an extra church visit: it was the most beautiful interior of all the churches I had seen this week. There was hardly a feature that wasn’t a feast for the eyes: the font, the pamment and brick patterned floor with the odd decorative tile; the wall paintings, floor memorials, chest dated 1675, early 16th century terracotta tomb, the chancel and its most unusual diamond-patterned east window… There are few churches in which I have taken quite so many photos. I also discovered on my wander around the church that Barsham has a claim to fame: the mother of Admiral Horatio Nelson was born in Barsham. She was a member of the Suckling family, which held the living at Barsham for more than three centuries.
I lingered longest to admire the striking 18th century marble floor memorial, and to try and work out what the bench ends depicted. The animals were unfortunately decapitated, but I was more interested in what they were standing on: it looked as though these might also once have been creatures – prey animals perhaps.
With so much to look at, my cello playing effort was fairly short – and cold, but enjoyable. I found even more to admire when I went outside and was met by a deliciously sweet smell as I opened the door. It seems that each season has its own equally wonderful fragrance, whether in sun or rain. Circling the church anticlockwise, I discovered that the diamond pattern of the east window continued over the whole wall. I had never seen anything like it. On the north side, I came to a carpet of aconites and snowdrops; and turning round to look at the church, I found the most charming staircase (below) with a flint and brick border beside it (header photo). A little Norman window hid round the corner, beyond the end of the north aisle.
By the time I left Barsham, once again damp from the never-ending drizzle, I was in high spirits. I hadn’t been looking forward to spending most of the day travelling, especially given that the flight itself was only two hours long. My short stop off at Barsham, however, was so uplifting as to get me all the way to Spain on a cloud – metaphorical as well as physical.
Total churches to the end of February: 152 +2 chapels