Our Lady Immaculate and Joseph (or Coldham Cottage), Lawshall
I’d wanted to visit the Catholic church in Lawshall ever since I spotted it in February 2018. It was serendipitous that Pamela, who came to hear me play at Fornham St Genevieve, was connected with the church and happened to mention it when we met there: I’m not entirely sure I would have got round to organising it if she hadn’t provided me with an easy solution.
The church, I read, is the oldest continuing Catholic church in Suffolk, but beyond that, my efforts to understand its history as given on the Lawshall Archives Group website were somewhat unsuccessful, as several references to ‘the present church’ don’t all seem to be describing the same building or part of building (though this problem has undoubtedly arisen because I don’t understand Catholic terminology). As best I understand it, this paragraph describes the church I played in:
‘Coldham Cottage itself dates from the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century and [is timber framed], whitewashed and rendered, with pantile roof and brick central ridge and right end projecting stacks. A separate church was created utilising one unit of the existing house (kitchen and bedroom with removal of floor) and building on an extension.’
Or, according to Simon Knott (whose account is more readily understandable to me, though it seems not to entirely agree with the previous description), ‘The church and presbytery form a row of three cottages; the two most easterly, which contain the presbytery and sanctuary, are 16th century, while the most westerly is the addition of the 19th century.’
It was my third and last Catholic church visit, after Hengrave (which, strictly speaking, is now a chapel), and Clare Priory Old Infirmary. I was glad that here I was able to play in tune – in contrast to my experience at Clare Priory. It couldn’t have had anything to do with the acoustic, as the buildings sounded as wonderful as each other; so I put it down, once again, to those inexplicable variations in bodily and mental functioning over which we seem to have no control. Whatever the cause, it meant I enjoyed my visit all the more, and those who came in to listen – after or while enjoying the post-service tea – seemed appreciative.
As I was leaving, Pamela told me that she hoped to arrange a continuation of monthly music in the church, my visit being the first. I was pleased to hear of this plan: it was a building and an acoustic to enjoy to the full.
St George’s, Thwaite
Thwaite (strangely pronounced ‘Twaite’) was not at all as I expected, given that it is now called St George’s Hall. I knew it was a redundant church in the care of the village, but it still felt very much like a church – and a very sweet one – not a village hall. I wouldn’t have known it was redundant if I had stumbled upon it and there hadn’t been a sign outside to explain. It was still in need of work, with the east end of the nave and the chancel blocked off for safety reasons – though I was glad to be allowed through to play my cello there, as the only other space big enough was opposite the nave door, and I wanted to stay at a little distance from the audience. My paranoia about the possibility of catching covid was increasing steadily as my final church concert approached: it was now only five days away, and I was still finding it hard to believe that such an event had a chance of actually taking place.
The poor weather forecast prevented the original plan of a churchyard picnic from going ahead; instead, I was told, I would play first and then tea and scones would be served in the school room on the edge of the churchyard by the road, a tiny and rather sweet Victorian building of which I somehow failed to take a photo. My favourite aspect of the church, however, which I did take several photos of, was without doubt the old patched wooden door through which I entered.
It was a cheery occasion despite the cold and grey, and the rain held off long enough for me to take photos outdoors and enjoy a cup of tea and a chat with the villagers outside the school room. It was my penultimate intact church: the only churches remaining before Orford were now two ruins. It was getting tantalisingly close, and somehow still impossible to believe that I would actually succeed in completing my challenge, 4.5 years after I began it.
Header photo: Thwaite
Total churches to the end of August: 501 + 7 additional historic chapels and churches