See also Lavenham, a medieval town
The church of St Peter and St Paul, in the Perpendicular style, was built with wool money. It was constructed in thanksgiving for the Tudor victory of the War of the Roses. A church on the site was demolished so most of what is on view today dates from the 15-16th centuries. However, the 14th century chancel and eastern vestry survived.
Inside the church are many tributes to the Springs and the de Veres, two of the wealthy merchant families who contributed much money to the building. John de Vere was 13th earl of Oxford. Thomas Spring II’s contribution began the building of the 141-foot tall flint tower and his son, Thomas Spring III, a wealthy clothier, continued to support it. A renaissance screen (1525) marks his tomb.
About 1500 the Branch chapel was added to the church, named for another rich wool merchant, Simon Branch. The reformation combined with Cromwell’s reign saw to the destruction of the medieval glass and many stone and wood figures in the church.
In the 1850s the 3 decker pulpit and box pews were removed from the church. At the same time the choir was moved to the chancel from the choir loft (under the tower arch.)
When touring the church exterior take special notice of the following: the fan vaulted roof of the south porch; the two boars above the porch doorway; the linen-fold carving on the doors; shields around the base of the tower; and the carved gargoyle heads on the clerestory (12 windows) and side walls.
The tower has a spiral staircase of 198 steps leading to the roof. There are eight bells in the tower bell chamber and another in the spirelet above the Lady (Spring) Chapel dating from 1525. The nave is 96 feet from the tower to the screen and 25 feet wide. The capitals have Tudor flowers. Fourteen carved canopied figures decorate wall posts. There are eight carved and painted bosses on the rood canopy.
There are three ancient brasses remaining of 27 original ones in the north aisle. The Spring parclose is a chapel with the Spring tomb in it and is made of carved wood. The Branch chapel shows features of an earlier foundation. There is a 17th century oak altar table here and a window with Victorian painted glass.
The chancel is the oldest part of the church. There is a great east window of painted glass. A Tudor door to the right leads to the rector’s vestry. Its walls are half panelled from the former nave box pews. In the Lady Chapel are Jacobean altar table and early 1800s painted glass windows. A second parclose is located in the south aisle and encloses a tomb of another Lavenham clothier Thomas Spourne. On the roof beams of the south aisle are carved children. Also in the south aisle is a 14th century font. The choir stalls have carved animals at the bench ends and misericord carvings.
Lavenham, Suffolk is on the A1141. The church is usually open daylight hours and for services. It has a bookstall.
Lavenham Tourist Information Centre
Lady Street, Lavenham, Suffolk, CO10 9RA
Tel. 0 1787 248 207; Fax. 0 1787 249 459
Photos of church exterior and tower © by Barbara Ballard.
Other photos as follows:
Parclose screen and rood screen by David Postles courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland
Church interior courtesy Simon Knott at Suffolk Churches
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