A brief history of our church

West view of church

Rickinghall now consists of the united parishes of Rickinghall Inferior and Rickinghall Superior.  The church of St. Mary Rickinghall Superior, known as the Upper Church, is situated on higher ground and was separated from the main part of the village when the bypass was opened  in 1995. This fourteenth century church was made redundant in December 1977, and in March 1980 was taken over by the Redundant Churches Fund (now the Churches Conservation Trust) for preservation. At the moment (March 2011) the ecclesiastical parish of Rickinghall is in the process of becoming a United Parish with Redgrave-cum-Botesdale.


St. Mary’s, Rickinghall Inferior, (known as the Lower Church), is situated in a hollow, bounded by a brook next to the former A143, an old coaching road running through the village and the adjoining village of Botesdale as one continuous street. Our church is set in the centre of a large graveyard with many trees and a wide expanse of grass giving it a peaceful atmosphere. The church is Grade 1 listed and with the churchyard is situated in a conservation area.

A church with 24 acres of free land was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, when the manor was held by the Abbey of St. Edmunds.
Saxon Window

The tower is considered Norman by the Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service.  There is a Norman arch into the nave.  W.J. Goode in his book ‘Round Tower Churches of South East England’ described the tower as Saxon, due to the 4 windows on the second floor which can only be seen internally, as the tower was given another outer skin of flint in the Norman period. There is also a blocked Norman doorway on the first floor above the tower arch.  The octagonal belfry was added in the fourteenth century.

Norman doorway Belfrey
Porch An early C14 porch was originally a single storey with a low two bay arcade resting on a pillar and was heightened to form a  parvise later.  Above the doorway is a flush-work panel emulating the style of the Aldrych family firm of masons from North Lopham who were working on Suffolk churches from 1487 – 1508.  Low stone seating runs along both internal walls of the porch.
Nave The church is built of flint and consists of a nave with a south aisle almost as wide as the nave.   Birkin Haward dated the 4 bay arcades to  C14.  The nave roof is a late sixteenth century hammer beam internally and was higher than the present tiled roof. The original height can be seen where the nave joins the tower externally.


The late C13 Decorated windows in the south aisle may have originally been in the nave and re-used when the aisle was added.  The east Perpendicular window in the south aisle has a pretty leaf design frieze below the window, still showing signs of blue paint in places which may be medieval.

Window of Lady Chapel

The inner shafts of an earlier Decorated window remain in place. Beautiful modern glass, designed by Eric Eckersley of Brome, was inserted into the central light of this window.  The panel was made by Norfolk Stained Glass and donated by the parish council to commemorate the millennium.  


Piscina The C14 piscina has been over decorated in a Victorian restoration, and next to it is a dropped sill sedilia.  An alcove in the south wall may be a banner stave cupboard or a blocked doorway for a staircase to an earlier walkway over a parclose leading to the rood loft.


The rood screen and loft would have been inserted into the 14th century chancel arch and removed later at the Reformation.  The Decorated style east window is narrower than the aisle window.  The tracery in this window was probably replaced in 1858 when J.D. Wyatt was working on the church.


The piscina has also been restored by Wyatt unsympathetically, and he was responsible for the Minton tiles in the sanctuary. The reredos is made of tracery panels from the old rood screen and then painted with figures in medieval style in 1870 in memory of Sophie Marks, who died on her honeymoon by falling into a crevasse on Mont Blanc.  The east window of the chancel was installed in Sophie’s memory by her husband.


Most of the window glass in the chancel is Victorian, but some fragments of earlier glass were placed in the window above the dropped sill sedilia, part of which shows a man drinking from a tankard. The glass in the south chancel window dated 1891 is by Lavers and Westlake, and is in memory of Sophie Marke’s father, the Revd. Richard Compton Maul.


The C14 octagonal font has seven panels with carved windows on them showing the development of the style of windows  during the 14th century and the rear panel is completely blank.

Click here for detailed photographs of the font


In the tower are three bells, one of which is pre-Reformation.

US Standard

The American flag displayed in the chancel is a replacement of one given by the 65th General Hospital (Duke University, Durham, NC United States Army) to Rickinghall Superior Church.  The hospital was situated in the parkland of Redgrave Hall towards the end of the Second World War, and Rickinghall Church loaned the altar and furnishings from the Upper Church for use in the hospital chapel. The flag was given as a thank you present when the Americans left England.

A history of the 65th General Hospital can be found here

  A re-union was held for some of the staff from America in 1992, by which time the flag was in a very poor condition.  One of the American ladies was so distressed by it that she tried to find a replacement flag in America with only 48 stars, the same as the original.  The new flag was finally presented to Rickinghall Inferior Church in June 2005, but the original has been kept.
Maul memorial In the churchyard is a tall cross memorial dedicated to Lieutenant Richard Compton French Maul by his brother officers in the Buffs, the son of the Rev’d. Richard Compton Maul.  He died aged 27 on the 25th April 1874.
Memorial boards In the church are memorial boards with the names of the men from the village who died in the first and second world wars and one man who died in the Korean war.
  The altar is a Stuart holy table but the top has been replaced.
  Jean Sheehan    2007 (Updated 2011)

Click here for gallery of full size photographs. 

Click here for detailed photographs of the font 

Click here for names of Rectors of Superior, Inferior and the combined benefice

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