Fornham St Martin is a village north of Bury St Edmunds. The full name of the parish is “Fornham All Saints with Fornham St Martin cum St Genevieve” – try fitting that on a marriage certificate! We parked by the Woolpack pub website – which was always welcoming – and found the church open. It is a lovely red brick porch, late medieval, and the noticeboards were well organised – one my hates is scruffy noticeboards! The tower is a result of a large legacy in 1425.
Inside, I had forgotten quite how bright the kneelers are. Shortly before we came here (in 1994) the pews in the Lady Chapel had been removed and replaced with a new modern altar and chairs. The Chancel had also been stripped, and the plan had been to take the pews out of the Nave. Fortunately that never happened, but it took quite a few years before the Chancel and its furnishings fitted in again.
I like the Lady Chapel altar (which I failed to photo) and the banner produced by County Upper School – I remember producing a Suffolk Show display about green issues and realising we needed something else in the tent. A panic phone call to the churchwardens, and of course I could borrow their tapestry. I like the hatchments and memorials, including the one to the organ blower – it is a good organ, and they are trying to raise some money for it.
The Victorian stained glass is OK, but nothing special – the modern stained glass window of the Benedicite is by Abbot & Co. “O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever. O ye Angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.”
The story of St Martin – who was a Roman soldier who gave half his cloak to a beggar – is in a window and in this misericord which has been built into a lectern. Thomas Becket has been built into the prayer desk. I remember a Sunday after Christmas where we told his story.
Outside in the churchyard I had a wander to see who I remembered. One gentleman was ex-military, a Major. He and his wife came to our Wednesday morning communion – Sunday was a bit too lively! He had served in India and would tell stories about elephant shooting in the Kyber Pass. After his death his widow assured us she was coping fine – and seemed to be. One Wednesday we had a power cut in church, so I asked her if we could go to her’s for after-service coffee. One of the ladies went into the kitchen to help her make it – and saw a pile of unpaid bills in a corner. She was a gentle, tactful woman, and it came out that the Major’s wife had never handled money and didn’t know how to write a cheque. The two became good friends as the problems were quietly sorted. (There are times I am proud of the people I have served).
On the subject of the military – Simon of Simon’s Suffolk Churches adds a fascinating card from the First World War and a note explaining it in the context of the history of a village church and the wider Church of England. Have a read here.