Another of my lovely Suffolk churches – a small hamlet, and a church surrounded by fields. One of the fields nearby is the one where Edmund was martyred. Hoxne in East Suffolk will tell you it was there, but we support Bradfield. It is known that his final battle was near Thetford. He lost and fled from the Danes. He would not have gone east in the direction of Hoxne, as that would be straight into the arms of the Danes, rather he would have used the old Roman road to head south – the road that passes through this parish. In Rougham, a mile or two north, we have some places called “Kingshall” and similar names. In Bradfield we have a Hellesdon Wood and a Sutton Hall. An early account of Edmund’s death says he died at Hagelisdon and his body went to Suthuna before being taken to the town that would soon become Bury St Edmunds. Bury is four miles away. (A fuller, more scholarly account of all this is on the St Edmundsbury webpage).
The church is dedicated to St Clare, the sister of St Francis. In fact it is likely to have been All Saints church until the C18. We know that the St Clere family were the medieval Lords of the Manor, so it is likely that their name became the dedication – their family crest is above the tower door (a door I always thought would have been best in B&Q). St Clare’s feast day is 11 August which, in 1999, was the day of a solar eclipse. We celebrated her feast day with a service, then went outside to watch the eclipse. Harry made the front page of the Bury Free Press – we pushed the pagans in the Abbey Gardens onto page 2!
The list beside the door is a list of Rectors. It was put together by Terence Smith, who lived next door to the church and was a good historian. We had a special Evensong to dedicate the list and celebrate some of their stories. I knew that the previous week I had been offered the post in the Cathedral and would be leaving Bradfield, but I could not tell the congregation. Terence took it quite well, two weeks later, when I told him his list needed updating. Since my time they have photos of us – I am the hairy one!
In the churchyard there is a gravestone to Private William Stuteley. He was one of the Suffolk Regiment, and died in hospital in Bury St Edmunds in June 1918 aged just 24. He had been severely wounded in the chest and spine while fighting in France four years earlier and had spent the rest of his life in hospital. Although he was formally honoured with a burial service at Bradfield his name did not appear on the Suffolk Regiment’s Roll of Honour or in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records. Terence did some research and made the case – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission put this stone in in 2002.
This stone is to Bucky and his wife. He was a member of the Gospel Hall, but always lovely to me and the Anglicans. He had been in a Japanese PoW camp during the War, during which he had been hung for days by his thumbs. His hands were misshapen and gave him a lot of pain – yet Bucky had managed to forgive them and move on. An amazing man.
Back inside the church, these kneelers are fantastic. They were made by George Insley in 1976, so they’ve lasted well.
The Victorians did a good restoration, and we repaired a large crack over the East Window in my time. We had a good time here. The current magazine says that Pat is her 22nd year of making marmalade – excellent marmalade – and Flo talks about her 85 years in the village. If my maths is right, Sharon (the current Rector) is the tenth Rector that Flo has lived through … .
You may know the story of the Vicar who announces he is leaving. One of the old ladies says “O, it’s such a shame you’re going. There’ll never be another Vicar like you.” “Thank you,” replies the Vicar, “that’s lovely”. “Yes,” says the lady, “I’ve lived through nine Vicars, and each has been worse than the one before.”