See also Orford Castle
Although dating from Norman times, St Bartholomew’s has seen many changes over the centuries. Bits of the early church are visible in the ruined chancel arcades at the exterior eastern end. In the interior, parts of the early church are found in a Norman pier in the Mayor’s chapel. Also dating from the same time are the partial remains of columns, once supporting the tower, that are located on either side of the altar.
As the town grew, so did the church. Between 1320-30 a larger nave with side aisles was constructed as well as a tower at the west end. In the 1530s the colourful wall paintings and carvings were destroyed with the coming of the Reformation. A new roof was put in place about 20 years later.
In the 17th century the Puritans destroyed 11 brass inscriptions and 28 pictures, dug up the altar steps, and removed four crosses. In the early 1700s the church underwent refurbishment including the addition of an organ gallery at the nave’s west end. At some point the north clerestory windows were blocked.
In 1830 the higher part of the tower was destroyed when a buttress gave way. Although it was made safe it wasn’t until 1962 that restoration occurred with some changes from the original tower taking place. Take particular note of the west doorway and its moulded arch and carved door. On the west side of the tower is a 14th century quatrefoil window.
In 1877 the church was restored and enhanced by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. The roof was replaced on the nave and aisles and a new east wall and five light window were put in place. In 1900 further work was completed including the south aisles and porch roofs being replaced. A new pulpit and two new lecterns and other fittings enhanced the interior. The screen and choir stalls were 1921 additions along with stained glass added in the east window.
Note in the nave and aisles the surviving three light window that dates from 1330. The nave’s five bay arcades are early 1300s. The tower arch in the nave is medieval. Other items of note in the nave are a piscina, a 1634 five lock chest, a 1899 oak pulpit, a brass eagle lectern, a 15th century bench, and the carved wood screen. A memorial to Benjamin Britten is in the nave floor at the west end. He used the church as a concert venue many times.
The carved stalls in the chancel were designed in 1921. A panelled screen dates from 1712 while parts of another carved screen are from the 16th century. A 16th century painting of the holy family sits above the high altar.
Of note in the Mayor’s Chapel is part of a 15th century staircase, a Norman pier holding up the eastern arch, and part of a 1772 organ gallery. In the Lady Chapel are a piscina, brass eagle lectern, and a wall monument of 1621. The church is noted for its collection of a dozen monumental brasses.
The porch dates from the 15th century (restored in 1900) and has two-light windows and a gargoyle of the same period. The porch served as a schoolroom in the 18th century. The door is 14th century.
St Bartholomew’s Church
Use town parking or park at castle when visiting it and walk to the church.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard except church interior aisle by Oliver Dixon courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland
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