Suffolk churches 141: Great Glemham and Parham (September 2019)

All Saints’, Great Glemham
Great GlemhamIt was a beautiful, warm day, and the last day of my break in east Suffolk. After a perfect walk through all the habitats Walberswick had to offer, I set off homeward with enough time to visit two churches.

Great Glemham was my first stop, a village known to me only as the location of the Alde Valley Festival in spring, to which I had managed one failed visit with my friend Cristina, neither of us realising it was closed on a Monday. I will make it there one day, especially since there seems now to be an autumn festival as well.

Great Glemham archGreat Glemham fontI was surprised when I reached the village: it was not how I imagined it at all, especially after visiting Little Glemham church. It is true, that was a gloomy, rainy day, and today was sunny; but this seemed an altogether brighter and more welcoming place, regardless of the weather. Great Glemham didn’t seem so great, however, either in church or village. In size only, I mean, because I was thoroughly delighted by what I found: a little church in the centre of a small village with pretty rows of cottages on either side of the lane. Thankfully, the A12 seemed not to bother this place in the slightest.

Great Glemham interior Great Glemham interior 2

I felt a distinct chill when I entered the church: the first sign that autumn was on its way, I thought. But I soon forgot about the temperature amongst the delights of the seven sacraments font, colourful kneelers, beautiful roof and wonderful acoustic. I had no trouble launching into practice today, and by the time I had finished, I felt warm, with a glow from a lovely place and satisfying practice.

Great Glemham interior 3The churchyard was also beautiful. I didn’t remember ever seeing bracken growing in a churchyard before. Many people denounce bracken as an invasive weed – and perhaps if I had to manage it I would agree, but instead I simply enjoyed its happy association with heaths and summer. Great Glemham churchyard

I left Great Glemham with many a backward glance, hoping that Parham would be equally charming.

St Mary’s, Parham
Parham came as much of a surprise to me as Great Glemham, although I knew nothing about this village at all. This remote-feeling church sat in a hilly, huge and wild churchyard with wonderful views. The church seemed remarkably large for such a small village, and to have a remarkably high roof for an aisle-less church.

ParhamParham 2

Parham interior Parham interior 2

The high roof meant large windows, and they were all clear, allowing light to flood the church. I found stunning graffiti of all kinds on the tower arch. Some were almost certainly drawings but I couldn’t easily interpret them. Others were obvious, including faces, harps, ladders (to heaven?) and possibly the most elaborate ship I have ever seen, with people travelling in it. I sent a photo to my bassoonist friend, Steve.  He replied, ‘did you see the anchor?’ I hadn’t noticed it. No detail had been missed in the carving.

Parham tower Parham font Parham graffiti 7
Parham graffiti ship Parham graffiti face
Parham graffiti 5 Parham graffiti 4 Parham graffiti 6
Parham graffiti 1 Parham graffiti 2
Parham graffiti 3 Parham chest

Parham was another church with a heavenly acoustic, but I had to make my visit relatively brief, in order to get home in time to give a cello lesson. As I was leaving the church, I saw a sign saying, ‘MIND YOUR HEAD AND SHOULDERS!’ Someone had added in marker pen underneath, ‘AND YOUR SILVIKEIN’. I was puzzled. What on earth could silvikein be? I looked it up afterwards, and the word doesn’t exist. The closest word that does exist is ‘silvikrin’, a brand of hairspray. I laughed.

My visit was no less memorable for its briefness, and Great Glemham and Parham will never again be to me non-places near the A12: they would be the villages of the wonderful churches, the wild churchyard and the ship carving.

Header photo: Great Glemham roof angels

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