Parish Church of Fressingfield - SS Peter & Paul (exterior)
The church stands upon rising ground at the centre of the village, set in a spacious churchyard. Beside it is the old Guildhall, now the 'Fox and Goose', which was built in the first decade of the 16th century, and was improved in 1616. It is a noteworthy example of brick and timber, carved into the corner-post nearest the church porch was the figure of St. Margaret of Antioch, to whom the Guild Chapel in the church was dedicated. This is one of the elaborate "wool churches" of East Anglia.
Before 1320 there may have been two distinct parishes of Fressingfield and Chepenhall and the union of thee parishes meant that the parish church of Fressingfield needed to be enlarged; and from this time the present building had developed. Like most mediaeval churches, the structure gradually evolved over the centuries and was added to and altered as new styles of building became fashionable, money became available and restoration was found to be necessary. The present church was not the first upon the site and during the restoration which took place in the 1800's, what was thought to be part of the apse of its predecessor was unearthed.
The earliest visible workmanship that survives dates from ca 1320-30 and can be seen in the internal shafts and arch of the east window; also in the three-light north window of the north chapel and the doorway beside it, which were reset here, possibly from the chancel, when the north chapel was erected, about 1511. The tower also exhibits architecture of the Decorated style of the first half of the 14th century, as does the west window of the south aisle. By 1350, the present nave, chancel and tower were in position.
The church is worth viewing to the north, where the churchyard slopes away from it. The western Tower, clearly dating from the 14th century, is supported by buttresses on all four sides, reaching to the level of the nave roof. Tiny single windows light the chamber above and on the west side is the face of an old one-handed clock with a diamond shaped face. It was given by Archbishop Sancroft in the 17th century. The belfry windows date from a little later in the 14th century. They have pleasing tracery and are well-proportioned. The flintwork of the embattled parapet is later than the rest of the tower, but at its base are four fine animal heads. Those on the south side act as gargoyles to drain rainwater from the roof.
SS Peter & Paul
parish cemetery and old Vicarage
path to south porch entrance
The magnificent South Porch is certainly the most beautiful feature of the exterior. It was built by Catherine de la Pole ca 1420 and was carefully restored during the 19th century. It was a wonderful tribute, not only to the de la Poles, but also to the 15th century stonemaker's craft. The south face displays some beautiful flushwork tracery (panellng in flint and stone), which can also be seen in the buttresses and at the base of the east and west walls. The noble entrance arch has an angel and the Wingfield arms at its apex and in its moulding can be seen crowns and neurons (flowers). The Hood mould is also studded with neurons and rests upon crowned corbel heads (of King Henry V and Queen Catherine). The unusual drapery in the spandrels may be a later addition.
Above the entrance are two roses between double flushwork panels. A small double window beneath a crocketted hood-mould gives light to the parvise, or upper storey. which is flanked by lofty canopied and vaulted niches crowned by clusters of pinnacles, also three-light traceried panels. The crested parapet is made up of stone quatrefoils and there are bases of the pinnacles at the corners, and an oridingal stone figure on the south side. There is a fine gargoyle on the eastern side and a pair of gargoyles in the angle between the west wan and the south aisle wall (which encloses the staircase to the parvise).
The interior of the porch has a tierceron-vaulted roof, resting upon restored corbels depicting the symbols of the four Evangelists. There are eight bosses; seven with foliage and one (the southernmost) with the coat of arms of the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds. There is also a large central boss, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by radiating figures. There are two 17th century benches in the porch. The inner entrance arch contains a pair of fine 15th century doors.
The south doorway gives access to a bright and cared-for interior, which shelters many treasures and items of interest. The aisles are separated from the Nave by Arcades of three bays, with octagonal piers and moulded capitals, of early 15th century. The chancel arch is in the same style, but the arch which divides the north aisle from the chapel is 16th century.
Observations: The ancient stone crosses. The table tombs. The grey stone and yellow-brown lichen. The crude or finely etched names and dates. In the cemetery, the mournful poems and maxims. The stately tracing of the spreading cakes, ancient and silent and motionless, planted and framing the guildhall.
One may examine the ancient wooden carvings in post of the gildhall, the worm holes, the greybrown.
A stone, pebbled path, crushed underfoot. Stone lintel at the porch entrance door. The yellowed stone of the church in the late afternoon sun. The knapped flint. The ornate south-west porch with its priest chamber and tiny windows in the perpendicular style. Heads of kings and queens. The two small narrow, now empty niches over the the entrance accompanying the priest chamber window.
The perpendicular windows with their fine yet ornate tracery between the slight buttresses. The bosses and roses.
Slate roof. The stubby, solid, square watchtower on the western end,with its wooden shutters opening for the bells on all its four sides. The Norman door and stone pargeting. The ornate, imposing table tomb of Archbishop Sancroft just to the right of the south-west door. The six high perpendicular windows above the southern side ailes. The crumbling chancel has been bricked in repair but not in a way that enhances the overall effect.
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