LIST OF VICARS
Compiled by Carol Twinch
This list draws together information from various publications listed in the bibliography, village guides, and the List of Vicars on the south wall of the church; also, gleanings from the Parish Registers (which began in 1554), libraries, plus extra detail from the NADFAS survey (1977-2000).
Where known incumbents' birth and death dates are included and that in the left-hand column signifies the date - or approximate date - of the start of the incumbency. Often a Curate, or a minister from a neighbouring parish, would attend during an interregnum and where possible these names have been included.
Sibton Abbey appointed the early clergy. Several 15th and 16th century Vicars of Rendham left wills and these can be seen at Norwich Local Studies library (the parish being under the authority of the Bishop of Norwich at that time).
1313 Benedict Le Henricus de Walpole
Benedict Walpole (Vicar) was one of those who drew up an
Account of the extent of lands and tenements belonging to SibtonAbbey in Rendham in 1325
which included a message (term used in deed to indicate a dwelling house and its
including outbuildings) as well as the church and parish land.
The Abbot in Charge at Sibton was Abbot Eustace.
(MS Harl. 83, E.34)
Dom Benedict de Eyr
Named in the Sibton Abbey inventory as Vicar.
1331 Benedict de la Walpole
Probably related to others of the Walpole family, Benedict is named as Vicar of Rendham in 1331
Thomas Kyng ?
The first (retrospective) entry in the Rendham registers is the date of Thomas Kyng's burial, given as 15 April 1423. However, the brass inscription bears the date 1523.
Died in 1428 (will proved at Norwich)
(? - uncertain)
Died in 1443 (will proved at Norwich)
Died 1470 (will proved at Norwich)
Died in 1498 (will proved at Norwich)
Died 1500 (will proved at Norwich - and also Canterbury in 1500?)
Thomas Kyng ?
On the nave floor a chalice brass with inscription reads: `Here lieth Thomas Kyng sometime vicar of the church which died 1523'. The parish entry, however, reads 1423.
In 1534 Henry VIII took the first steps along what became known as The Reformation:
one of the first abbeys to be dissolved was the Cistercian house at Sibton. This was the end of Roman Catholicism as the state religion in England and the start of the Church of England. It brought not only fundamental changes in social and Episcopal practice but also in the everyday running of the parish church and the nature of its fabric and furnishings. When Henry VIII died in January 1547 sweeping changes in church practices were introduced and services were henceforth no longer to be in Latin but in English. The Act of Uniformity (1549) further decreed that a Book of Common Prayer should be used in Anglican worship.
Died in 1540 (will proved at Norwich)
Thomas Same is named as `Chaplain' in 1540 and it is likely that he presided over the parish for 4 or 5 years.
The Registers for Rendham began in 1554, following a directive of
1538 requiring each parish to obtain a `secure coffer' in which to keep its records. Baptisms, marriages and burials were to be entered into a register by the parson, witnessed by a churchwarden and deposited in the parish chest.
Peter Walters, AB?
George Howsden, AB ( -1632)
First entry in the Registers as Vicar in 1612.
He died at Rendham and buried in the churchyard in April 1632.
In 1620, W Robert Hawes left legacies in his will for repairs to the church.
William Powell ( -1666)
Inducted as Vicar of Rendham on 3 May 1632. A student of Caius College Cambridge, Powell was suspended from the living by Bishop Wren of Norwich (in all probability because of his support for the Puritan cause). It is likely that the inscription `1632 W.P.' on the pulpit refers to William Powell.
William Powell is listed as Vicar in the Subsidy Returns for 1639, and in the 1666 Court Book as `deceased' and his lands passed to his son, Seth (who was christened at Rendham in February 1636 and died in 1719). Seth's wife Ann died in 1686 “… wife of Seth Powell (who was the son of William Powell, late Vicar of Rendham)”.
In 1649 Charles I was executed and a Commonwealth proclaimed. Huge upheaval followed not least in the way the clergy of the Established Church were chosen. Many incumbents were removed from their Livings by the new authorities. In the first wave of Civil War (1642-1649) both the Church and the Monarchy were seen to be the joint enemies of the state (and, therefore, the people) and iconoclasm and desecration of church fabric was rife.
In Suffolk William Dowsing wreaked havoc in the county's churches throughout 1643 and 1644, though Rendham does not feature in his famous diary of destruction. Was it chance that kept Dowsing away from Rendham, or did he have family connections here? It is observed that among the names on a Subsidy Return for 1524, one `William Dowsyng' is named at Rendham. But, although Dowsing himself wrought no damage here his `Visitor' (or Deputy) here was Thomas Denny of Earl Soham (information given by Dr John Blatchley). However, it is likely that Rendham was already sympathetic to the Puritan cause, evidenced by the dismissal of William Powell by Bishop Matthew Wren (1585-1667). Wren's determined antagonism toward the Puritan ideal resulted in his dismissal of clergy suspected (by him) of puritan leanings. Much of what Denny had come to destroy might already have been done and certainly at some point the pre-Reformation site of the communion rail was moved up into the chancel thus breaking down the division between clergy and the people. (It should also be remembered that the Cistercians abided by a rule of austerity, which applied to the architecture of their abbeys and rendered their churches devoid of decoration.)
The Commonwealth Government lasted from 1649 until the Restoration in 1660.
His signature first appears in the Registers as Vicar in April 1652.
The exiled Charles II, son of Charles I, agreed to the terms of
Restoration and was invited by the Convention Parliament to return to the English throne. Churches across the nation raised the Coat of Arms for the new king, one of which was Rendham. However, it is likely that the Arms were adapted from a previous monarch (to save both time and money) and the face of the lion painted accordingly!
The Eade family owned land and tenements in Rendham.
In 1678 money was collected from the Parish of Rendham to help toward the re-building of St Paul's Cathedral. Among the donors, to the tune of 10 shillings, was Thomas Palmer, Vicar (though it does not say specifically Rendham Vicar).
One of the burial slabs that pave the porch floor is to Edmund Palmer and could refer to Edmund Palmer `late Vicar of this Parish' who was buried at Rendham on 24 July 1711. The Palmer family, however, stretched over many generations and several of them were called Edmund, Thomas or John.
Near the vestry door is a brass inscription (in Latin) to Richard Thurston, who died in 1616, placed there by Edmund Palmer and William Curtis (his grandsons). Richard Thurston was a yeoman of Rendham and his will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in 1616. He could have been related to Edmund Thurston, an earlier Vicar who died in 1500, which would serve to show the long-standing parochial connections of Rendham's Palmer family.
Herbert Adee ( -1747)
A lead panel in the porch records John Wright as Churchwar(d)en in 1746, during the incumbency of Herbert Adee (note spelling of churchwarden with `d').
In the Registers there is a note that Herbert Adee moved to Rendham Vicarage on 9 February 1713.
He died in 1747 and was buried on 23 April at Rendham.
Luke Hill ( -1774)
He was inducted as Vicar on 4 April 1749 and died in 1774.
Robert Reynolds appears in the Registers as Curate in 1776 and marked the Register as `Exhibited'. He was still there in 1792.
Dr William Turton
First signed the Registers as `Exhibited' in 1793.
It was during Dr Turton's incumbency that
was appointed Curate although his name does not appear in the
Registers. From 1800-1801 another Curate, Mr Groom, signs the
Registers, also George Dinsdale, Curate.
The curacy of George Crabbe continues under Thomas Tennant until 1805. Only in 1808 does Thomas Tennant himself sign the registers.
David Elisha Davy (1769-1851) visited the church in 1806.
On 12 January 1813 Thomas Tennant was married to his second wife Sophia Keable at Rendham the ceremony being performed by Rowland Morgan, Curate.
Members of the Tennant family are buried in the churchyard including William's first wife Frances.
In 1814 the Patronage of the Living was vested in Simeon's Trust a legacy from the Reverend Charles Simeon, a man fundamentally and essentially an Evangelical of the Evangelicals. During his life, spent mostly at Holy Trinity Cambridge, Simeon practised a systematic benevolence and spent the greater part of his inherited fortune in setting up a Trust which he created for buying advowsons to parish churches. Thus would the incumbents of these churches be chosen for their Evangelical leanings.
Came to Rendham as Curate in 1813 (or before) and became Vicar in 1817.
A Curate's licence was granted to Reverend George Greaves in 1818 and another to Reverend Decimus Drew in 1846.
David Elisha Davy re-visited the church in 1819.
Charles Henry Marriott, MA ( -1874)
Came to Rendham as Curate in 1854. A stipendiary curate's licence was granted on 22 November 1854 for a stipend of £50 per annum. He became Vicar in 1855. On 12 July 1860 he was married to Mary Ann Palmer, only daughter of the late Thomas Bruce, by Reverend Russell Skinner, Rector of Sweffling. Mr Marriott's entry as `Vicar' ceases in the registers from 1873 (Reverend Skinner of Sweffling takes a burial at Rendham in 1874). He resigned on 17 January 1874 and died in the same year.
Alfred Robert Bennett, MA (1837-1878)
He first appears in the Registers in 1874. A marble plaque in the form of a scroll on the north sanctuary wall is to the Reverend Alfred Bennett who died 15 April 1878 in the 41st year of his age having been Vicar of the Parish for just four years.
George Ensor, MA
One of the bells, the Treble, carries an inscription dated 1890 to `George Ensor Vicar' and `Alfred Chambers Churchwarden'.
In the Registers he is called `Official Minister and Vicar' in 1881.
(Alfred Chambers farmed The Grange.)
Henry Ward Watson
In 1911 Thomas McClelland of Rendham Vicarage leased glebe land to George Glasscock Wakeling of Rookery Farm, Rendham.
(2003 addition: Revd Charles Bowring Ratcliffe is buried in Rendham churchyard. `Vicar of this parish 1919-1923). Died 1st April 1930, aged 81'.)
On 7 March 1922 an Order in Council was made for the union of Rendham and Sweffling, and in 1923 the parishes were joined in a United Benefice.
Vicar and Rector from 1923
1931 and first Vicar of the joint
Benefice of Rendham and
Sweffling. Parishioners from
Rendham and Sweffling
Missal Stand to
Griffin Charles Vyse
Charles Thomas Lynch
Maurice Gaskell Sykes
Cyril D R Stevens
In 1969 the Reverend Cyril
Stevens was appointed by the
Bishop to be Vicar of Rendham
and Rector of Sweffling as a
`temporary' job. He stayed for
26 years, retiring in January
1995. He worked as a surveyor
in an insurance office in New
Zealand before being ordained
curate in Napier Cathedral in
1959. A year later he was
ordained priest and served as
Vicar on New Zealand's North
Island. He returned to England
in 1965 and was Vicar of
Playford, Tuddenham and
Culpho before returning in 1968
to Christchurch, New Zealand,
for a year and then back to
Martin E Percival
In 2000 Rendham
became part of the
larger Benefice of
Badingham with Bruisyard, Cransford and Dennington.
Jonathan Olanczuk was
Installed as Priest in Charge on 18 January 2000 in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Dennington.
Made Rector 2004
A Short Guide and History Written by Carol Twinch
WELCOME to the Parish Church of St Michael - situated in the southwest corner of the parish of RENDHAM, a small village nestling in the Alde valley on the Framlingham to Saxmundham road. The infant River Alde marks the boundary with its neighbouring parish Sweffling, the two parishes having a United Benefice since 1923. In 2000 the two parishes became part of
the larger Benefice of Badingham with Bruisyard, Cransford and Dennington, the Reverend Jonathan Olanczuk licensed as Priest in Charge by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich and installed by the Archdeacon of Suffolk at St Mary the Virgin, Dennington.
Some of this ancient building has stood for 900 years and Rendham parishioners have worshipped here for a thousand years or more. Like most mediaeval churches, St Michael's has been altered and enlarged during its long history and people from different periods and Christian traditions have left their mark on it. This does not mean, though, that it is a museum or ancient monument as it is still in regular use. It ministers to parishioners and visitors simply by existing and is a place where people of all faiths - or of none - can find peace, beauty and inspiration.
Please feel free to explore St Michael's. The priest and people whose Church this is welcome any monetary contributions that you care to make to help maintain this ancient church, intact and beautiful, for future generations to use and to enjoy.
* * * * * * *
HOW OLD IS ST MICHAEL'S?
It is clear that in Roman times the settlement, because of its proximity to the river, was both lived in and visited. A quantity of Roman pot sherds were found in 1983 and an aerial survey carried out a few years ago showed interesting field markings at the Mellors' Rookery Farm. The intriguing question of how the Head of Claudius came to be found in the River Alde in 1907 is linked to the rebellion of Boudica, Queen of the Iceni tribe. Only 17 years after the Roman invasion the Iceni and Trinovantes tribes of East Anglia joined forces during the winter of AD 60-61 in revolt against the tyrannical and oppressive Roman administration. Among the cities attacked was Camulodunum (Colchester) but by then the Roman forces had regrouped to repel the uprising.
By AD 61 Boudica was in retreat northwards and at least some of the troops must have passed through Rendham. Was the head thrown into the river by Boudica's followers or was it dropped by accident? The head, which appears to have been ripped from a statue in Camulodunum, was taken as a trophy. Once the Iceni were routed possession of the looted Head of Claudius would have become a liability for those in retreat. In all likelihood it was either lost by a member of Boudica's defeated forces as he (or she) passed through the village, or was purposely hidden by a local family whose son or father had taken part in the assault on Colchester. Perhaps someone hoped that one day the Iceni would triumph and they could return to Rendham and retrieve the Head of Claudius to reclaim it as a trophy of war. Instead, it was found by Rendham schoolboy Arthur Godbold in 1907 and eventually found its way to Ipswich Museum and so into the annals of history.
(Another piece of the same statue - a fragment from a horse's leg - has lately turned up in Ashill, Norfolk. Due to the highly unusual alloy used for both the head and the fragment there is little doubt that the two pieces belonged to the same statue.)
A settlement at `Rimdham' is recorded in the Little Domesday survey gathered by the commissioners of William the Conqueror during the last years of his reign. William, who invaded England in 1066, ordered the Domesday survey in December 1085 and it eventually contained records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties. The Little Domesday contains records for Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex. These were the final locations for the commissioners but not all the survey was included in the main collection as King William died before all the records had been assembled. However, this Little Domesday contains unabridged returns and is the most detailed part of the survey.
The Domesday Book, as it is generally known, serves in many cases as the earliest documentary source of information and often shows the first recorded spelling of a place name. The Norman clerks often had difficulty in pronouncing a name, hence the variation in spelling. The entry for `Rimdham' includes `A Church with 24 acres and 1 plough'. The site of the present nave may well have survived from that church. Its walls date from the 1000s and probably replaced an earlier Saxon church of wood.
Between circa 1250-1300 the Chancel appears to have been built (or rebuilt) to the size and design seen today. This might well have been due to the annexation of Rendham by the Abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Sibton. The early history of St Michael's is inextricably linked with Sibton Abbey and there is a sad lack of published research on the origins and history of this, Suffolk's only Cistercian community. However, it is known that William de Chesney founded the Abbey in 1150 and that it was among the first of the religious houses to be closed in 1536 under the `Act for the dissolution of the lesser monasteries'. The Cistercian Order (the White Monks) had been founded in Burgundy in 1098. Its constitution laid down that new houses - such as that at Sibton - were to be founded in places `remote from the habitations of men', each with an Abbot and at least twelve choir monks (i.e. those in full monastic orders). It was also decreed that parish churches in their domain should be devoid of all ornament and is one of the reasons that the church is considered plain. Another is that Rendham's aristocracy, or owners of nearby manors, rarely lived here. They did not want to spend a vast amount of money on the fabric of a church where they and their descendants would not be buried.
The first recorded Vicar of Rendham is said to be a Norman, Benedict Le Henricus de Walpole who commenced his ministry here from the nearby Abbey, which held lands in Rendham and surrounding parishes. Rendham appears to have been one of the later acquisitions of the Abbey and was the result of piecemeal additions acquired over a considerable period.
It is not known precisely when the Abbot of Sibton first appointed a Vicar for Rendham. However, Benedict le Eyr de Walpole is `Chaplain' here in 1302, while in 1291 Rendham was assessed in the List of Temporalities of Sibton Abbey prepared for taxation purposes at the behest of Pope Nicholas IV.
The Abbot was given the advowson (the right of nomination or presentation to an ecclesiastical benefice) of Rendham Church in a Charter dated at Westminster in 1268 during the reign of Henry III (1216-1272). It was given by Robert Dalichon `for the souls of his father, mother, Elias de Rendham, and of himself and his wife'.
There was also a previous bequest in about 1250 from Herbert Alencon who donated other rights belonging to St Michael's to the Abbey `… for the health of the soul of Elias of Rendham'.
In the Sibton Abbey inventory of 1325 Dom Benedict de Eyr is described as `Vicar'. This inventory is a good example of the early mediaeval practice whereby a monastic or collegiate foundation would appoint a Vicar (from the Latin vicarius meaning substitute or deputy) to administer a benefice on their behalf. Usually the foundation itself would receive the Great (or Rectorial) Tithes (tithe being the principal source of cash flow for the church) and the Lesser (or Vicarial) tithes went to maintain the Vicar. All this was thrown into the melting pot at the Reformation but serves to explain why Rendham historically maintained a Vicar rather than a resident (or incumbent) Rector. (Although the Cistercian rules forbade receipt of tithes, the Rector or Vicar could receive tithes independently.)
Part of the Abbey's acquisition of Rendham property came from the tenement of Robert Eyr de Walpole, and a separate grange was eventually established (probably on the site of the modern Grange Farm) which owed allegiance to Sibton. Grange Farm, together with the nearby Pypers (now Hill Farm) formed part of the Abbey's lands until the Dissolution and would have been staffed by lay brothers.
Other clerics from Sibton had land in the parish, Dom William Hacon holding land next to that of `Benedict, the Vicar' and Dom Henry Messager holding 4 acres. The Abbot at that time was Dom Eustachio and clearly the influential Walpole family held sway here.
The 1325 inventory shows clearly that the Abbot held the church, and much of the parish land, then under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Norwich. A hand written transcript of this inventory can be seen in the History Corner and, among other things, shows the Palmer family of Rendham to have been a part of Rendham history over several centuries.
Between 1370-1470 the western tower was added, also the north porch. New north and south doorways were provided, also new and larger windows (probably replacing tiny Norman slit windows) in the nave.
THE CHURCH DURING THE 1800s
The Suffolk topographer David Elisha Davy (1769-1851) visited the church twice - once in 1806 and again in 1819 and it is interesting to compare what he found with what is here now. In 1806 the Communion Table was surrounded by rails on three sides and portions of the mediaeval rood screen remained in position at the division of nave and chancel. Near the screen was fixed a small black frame, with the Lord's Prayer, Creed and Commandments inscribed on copper plates, and pictures of Joshua, Moses and Aaron, above which was the Royal Arms of Kings Charles II. The seating (benches and box pews of oak and deal) filled the nave and chancel. The pulpit (then in the south east corner of the nave but moved to the north side in XXXX to accommodate the installation of the organ) was still equipped with the iron stand for its hourglass.
When Davy returned in 1819 the Parish Clerk informed him that about eight or nine years before the church had been repaired and furnished with a new set of deal box pews, and refloored. The remains of the screen had been removed and the Royal Arms fixed over the entrance to the chancel. The brass inscription to Richard Thurston was stored in the parish chest, where the antiquary Thomas Martin (1697-1771) had also found it in 1752. Over the Communion Table in a wooden frame were the Ten Commandments, at the top of which was a small painting of the church.
Davy also visited briefly in 1831 when he wrote in his diary for Friday, 18 March - We stopped first at Sweffling, where I found little in addition to what I had before obtained; then we went to Rendham, which furnished a few notes, but not much.
There was a restoration of the church in 1852 but the major Victorian re-ordering took place in 1865 when the building was closed for several weeks, before its grand re-opening on 11 November. The work included the replacement of the box pews with the present benches and the replastering of the walls. A new four-light east window was constructed and beneath it the five arches containing the Commandments, etc. (the gift of William Row who, with the Vicar, was the driving force behind raising the money for the restoration work). The Communion Rails, made by Cox & Co of London were installed, also four coronas for lights, made by Mr Wells of Saxmundham. The architect was William Pattisson of Woodbridge, who restored Cransford Church in 1848 and designed at least 7 schools and 13 parsonage houses in Suffolk. The work was done by village tradesmen where possible - the carpentry by Messrs Studd of Rendham, the bricklaying by Mr Lambert, the glazing by Mr Gunn of Debenham, the reredos by Mr Clutten of Framlingham and the new east window by Mr Balls of Halesworth.
The re-opening Service was at 2.30 pm on Friday, 11 November 1865 and conducted by the Reverend Charles Hardwick Marriott. The preacher was the Reverend H T Lumsden of St Thomas, Portman Square, St Marylebone. The work cost £180, of which £40 was still needed. The collection at the service raised £25 of this and that evening the Vicar gave tea in the Schoolroom to 110 of his `poorer parishioners'.
During the 1880s a member of the famous literary Powys family Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) came to live in Rendham. Theodore was sent to school at the privately run Eaton House School in Aldeburgh, where among his contemporaries were two sons of Rendham farmer, Arthur Frederic McDougall (1849-1905). McDougall was a considerable property owner in the neighbourhood and on hearing that Theodore wanted to learn farming, offered him a place at Rendham in 1892 where he stayed for over two years. Theodore records in a diary that he arrived at Rendham on 1 March 1892 and there is a slightly fictionalised account of life at Rendham in his autobiographical sketch This is Myself which was published in The Powys Review 20. He then moved to Sweffling where he ran White House Farm before returning to Dorset in 1901. There he devoted the rest of his life to reading, contemplation and writing his novels and short stories. Members of The Powys Society, founded in 1967 to introduce people to the writings of the Powys family, make occasional visits to Rendham Church.
It may be that members of the Powys family would have visited the writer Neil Bell (1887-1964) who also lived in Rendham.
EXPLORING THE EXTERIOR
It is worth taking time to enjoy this church in its setting. It is built mainly of flint-rubble masonry with imported stone for the windows and doorways with an occasional use of flushwork decoration, in stone and flints, which have been split to expose their dark cores. It stands in a spacious and atmospheric churchyard, which contains memorials to Rendham parishioners over hundreds of years. Notice the small headstone near the path to the porch to Thomas Hamon of Sternfield (dated 1719 though badly worn) and also the headstone now leaning against the vestry wall to Charles and Katherine Gibson (1747 and 1750). There is an imposing memorial to Arthur Frederick McDougall, son of Capt W J McDougall RM of Falmouth, who died on Ascension Day 1905 aged 56 years.
In 2001 a return was made from Rendham by Carol Twinch to record butterfly sightings in the churchyard as part of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society first-ever `Churchyard Survey'. The Survey was launched in April 2001 at Stradbroke Cemetery (its original launch at the Suffolk Show having been cancelled due to the Food & Mouth crisis in that year).
Near the main door is a Memorial Seat given by the Alde Community Council and made to a design by Jonathan Stevens. The site for this was chosen by Captain Alan Aldous, the Rector's Warden (who served in the Royal Navy and as a training officer for the P&O shipping line). He died in 1992 and his grave is opposite the Memorial Seat. Captain Aldous, together with Paul Mallorie, was also responsible for the new flagpole with the St George's Flag renewed.
The tower is strengthened at its western corners by small and elegant diagonal buttresses, embellished with simple flushwork, and there is a flushwork panel (similar to that at nearby Sweffling) beneath the two-light west window, circa 1400. Above this is a niche, built to contain a statue but now blocked with brick. A single window lights the south side, whilst on the north is the clock given as a War Memorial in 1919. In 1985 Arthur Fishwick Leather (1917-1991), one-time Churchwarden, launched an appeal for a permanent fund to keep the clock in good repair by annual inspections and maintenance. Mr Leather, of Manor Farm, was for many years Churchwarden and PCC Treasurer. He died in December 1991 and was buried in the churchyard on 9 January 1992. It is interesting to speculate on whether or not he was related to an earlier Vicar of the parish, John Fishwick Pemberton, who in 1923 was the first Vicar of the joint Benefice of Rendham and Sweffling.
The two-light belfry windows have a simple “Y” tracery, fashionable circa 1300, but their stonework is a 19th century renewal. The embattled parapet is faced with flushwork panels and beneath it on three sides, worn gargoyle faces peer out. Notice the northern one, with its mouth held open by tiny hands. These throw rainwater from the tower roof clear of the walls.
The corners of the nave are unbuttressed and its north and south walls (especially the latter) show some of the masonry set in layers. In places a `herring-bone' pattern is discernible in the flints and indicates 11th century construction. The blocked south doorway dates from the late 1300s. There are reputedly the faint traces of the upper part of a Mass Dial (which fixed the time for the start of Services before the days of clocks) in a stone on its eastern side, about 3 feet from the ground. (If this is so it is not now visible.) There are two-light windows of circa 1400 in the north and south walls, the latter with fine carved corbel heads supporting the hood-mould that frames its arch. On the south side there is also a handsome three-light Perpendicular window of circa 1450 also with carved corbel heads.
The chancel appears to have been built when Early English was evolving into decorated architecture (between 1250-1300). The Rector had responsibility for maintaining this part of the church, whilst parishioners looked after the rest. On the south side is the priest's doorway with two single windows (which allowed clerical access to the chancel without having to go through the nave). A piece of stone beneath the southeast window has a clearly visible Mass Dial. Near the priest's doorway is part of a stone coffin-lid with a severely worn foliated cross dating from circa 1300, which may come from the grave of a priest. On the north side of the chancel is an original “Y” traceried window of circa 1300 (whilst the east window has four-lights and intersected tracery dating from 1865).
The brick vestry to the north dates, probably, from the early part of the 19th century.
The north Porch (of the mid-1400s) has been much restored with bricks of varying vintages, the angle of its roof gable drastically altered. Its east window is blocked off and the west window totally renewed. Above the entrance arch is another niche, which has the remains of two small corbel heads flanking it. Two larger heads flank the entrance. Inside, four burial-slabs pave the floor (three to the Whincopp family and one to Edmund Palmer (who could have been the `griefstricken' grandson of Richard Thurston, or the Vicar who died in 1711) although the inscriptions have not been protected and are practically worn to extinction. Four corbels which once supported the original roof remain at the tops of the walls. In the eastern window-space is a section of the lead from the former church roof, inscribed with the name of John Wright (Churchwaden) and dated 1746 (note spelling error `Churchwaden' for Churchwarden'). The panel was found in 1968 when tiles were used to replace the old lead roof.
EXPLORING INSIDE ST MICHAEL'S
Craftsmanship from several periods blends to mould the character of the interior, which is a broad auditorium with no structural division (apart from the roofs) between the nave and chancel. In fact, the nave accommodation has been extended eastwards into the chancel `proper' and the original area of the sanctuary has been reduced. If we remember that the chancel actually begins where the piece of wood is set in the aisle floor and the sanctuary begins immediately east of the priest's doorway, we can appreciate the original proportions of the building. Much of what can be seen today is the result of Victorian restoration: the stained pine pews still have doors and the vestry is entirely Victorian.
Opposite the main entry door to the north there is the old south door blocked up to make a recess for the War Memorials. Two brass plates record the names of the men who gave their lives in both World Wars. A framed list makes a similar record and was originally in the Congregational Chapel, which was built in 1750 but closed in 1977 and sold. (The artist Henry Bright, 1810-1873, regularly attended Rendham Chapel from nearby Saxmundham where his father Jerome Bright was a prosperous jeweller and clockmaker.)
The list of vicars goes back to 1313 and is complete from 1540. The Suffolk Poet, George Crabbe (1754-1832), was Curate here under the Reverend Thomas Tennant. He moved to 'Lady Whincups' in Grove Farm Road from Great Glemham in the autumn of 1801. Crabbe had very little interest in parish affairs, his name not even appearing in the Registers, and in 1805 was ordered by the Bishop to return to his rightful curacy in Leicestershire. However, his time in Rendham was not wasted as he went on to write `The Borough' (1810) a poem that was eventually to inspire the composer Benjamin Britten's `Peter Grimes' opera.
In about 1814 the Patronage of the Living was vested in the Simeon's Trustees, set up by the Reverend Charles Simeon (1759-1836), of Holy Trinity Cambridge, so that `sound' clergy in sympathy with the Evangelical Movement could be placed in those parishes.
The simple octagonal font with its plain bowl resting on a panelled stem appears to be mediaeval but has been drastically re-cut. Hugh Boast made the oak cover in 1966. The Boast family covered many years of Rendham's history, living in the cottage opposite the church and for many years having their workshop on the Framlingham Road opposite the churchyard. They were woodworkers, wheelwrights, carpenters, undertakers and builders. William Boast who died in 1912 aged 70 years had been the village builder for nearly 50 years. In the 1980s the last of the Boast family died - Hugh (in 1982 aged 76), Bessie (in 1984 aged 85) and Geoff (in 1989 aged 88 years).
The History Corner was refurbished in 2004 and now has a changing exhibition of current events and local history. Old postcards, notes and artefacts from Rendham's past can also be seen, together with albums containing photographs and press cuttings contributed by parishioners. It was originated by Captain Jack and Mrs Margaret Godefroy, who ran the shop and Post Office (now a private house) on the corner opposite the White Horse pub. In 1986, after Margaret Godefroy died, the History Corner was taken over by Lady June Gwatkin who, together with Mrs Peggy Goudie accumulated more items on local history. The table previously in the History Corner, from the Congregational Chapel, is now kept in the Vestry.
There is also a file of notes relating to Rendham written by Miss Una Harrington, accumulated during the 1960s and 1970s. (Miss Harrington was the sister in law of Jack Carter, one-time Chairman of the Suffolk Local History Council.)
The table to the right of the History Corner is the old Communion Table,) above which is a small oil painting of Sandy Lane by H H Boast (dated 1954) which was given to the History Corner by John Dudley of the White Horse.
Among the archaeological finds to have been made in Rendham is the now internationally famous life-size Head of Claudius (mentioned previously). Cast in the Roman era of Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) the severed head was found in the River Alde at Rendham in 1907 by Arthur Godbold a pupil at Rendham School (which opened in 1841 but closed in 1973). The original head is kept at the British Museum, with copies at Colchester and Ipswich Museums, plus a newly commissioned copy soon to be on display in the History Corner (but which is currently on display in the newly opened Saxmundham Museum).
A 19th century wooden screen leads to the base of the tower. There are six bells in the tower: the treble and 3rd were cast by Llewellins & James of Bristol in 1890, the 2nd by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel in 1831, and the 4th by Reignold Chirche of Bury St Edmunds in the late 1400s. This last bell is inscribed `Virgo Coronata Duc Nos Ad Regina Beata' (`Lead us Crowned Virgin to the Blessed Realms'). The 5th is by William & John Brend at Norwich, dated 1622, and the tenor bell (which has a diameter of nearly 41 inches and weighs over 11 cwt) was cast in 1802 at the foundry of Thomas Mears in Whitechapel.
The bell ropes were purchased from a legacy by Mrs C W le M Croll (Mollie) of `Lady Whincups' and were dedicated on 13 August 1979 by the Rector, the Reverend Cyril Stevens (who was Instituted and Inducted in Rendham Church on 11 January 1969).
High above the tower arch are the Royal Arms of Queen Victoria, painted on wood. An older set of Royal Arms, of King Charles II (circa 1660) can be seen on the south nave wall. At the Restoration Charles II ordered that the Royal Arms should be set up in churches to remind people of the position of the Monarch as Temporal Head of the English Church. In many cases there was not the time - or the money - to commission new Arms so local craftsmen adapted earlier versions, as seems to have happened in Rendham.
The benches, made in 1865, incorporate woodwork from the earlier box pews in the backs and bases of some of their seats, as does the panelling lining the north wall.
In the north wall is the blocked-off entrance to the ancient rood loft staircase, which in pre-Reformation times would have lead to the former loft (or gallery) above the carved and painted rood screen. The staircase allowed the verger (or others) access to the rood to tend the candles that burned there. The rood (Old English word for wood) was the cross with the figure of the crucified Christ, and flanked by his mother and St John, which divided the chancel (for the clergy) and the nave (for the people). Thus would the everyday, secular affairs of parishioners be separated from the site of the Blessed Sacrament and clerical activity. The rood screen itself was wooden, and often decorated with paintings of saints, and usually stretched across the church from the north to the south wall. All churches originally had both the rood loft and a version of the rood screen, but as here in Rendham, many have long-since been destroyed - mostly at the Reformation or subsequently by well-meaning restorers.
The pulpit is a splendid example of 17th century woodcarving, complete with oak backboard inscribed `1632 W.P.'. `W.P.' has usually been presumed to be the donor's initials and, possibly William Palmer, Churchwarden. However it is more likely that the initials are those of a Vicar of the Parish William Powell, who was inducted on 3 May 1632 but later suspended from the living by Bishop Wren during the Civil War. The pulpit door is formed from two of the six sides and follows the blind-arched pattern. The accompanying tester (canopy or sounding board) projected the preacher's voice outwards. It now stands on a 19th century base, but was probably part of a three-decker arrangement (as at Dennington). The tester has turned pendants and was, in the opinion of the present Priest in Charge, positioned during the incumbency of a Vicar of short stature!
It is likely that the oak carved Prayer Desk (also of the 1600s) was made from wood either rescued or removed from the old rood screen.
Looking up at the 15th century arch-braced nave roof it is possible to see the cornices along the tops of the walls at its base, which are pierced by carved patterns. The collar beams and deep wall plates differ from the 19th century panelling in the chancel roof, which might conceal a mediaeval timber framework.
IN THE CHANCEL the organ, by Alfred Monk of London, has two manuals, pedals, and seven speaking stops. The organist is Charles Seely who is also Choirmaster of the Benefice Choir. The Choir sings at special services, Feast Days, etc. and are in the process of recording a CD.
Two corona lights hang from the ceiling with ironwork by Mr Wells of Saxmundham, who made them in 1865. In the same year (and well forward of their original position) the oak and iron communion rails were made by Cox & Co of London. Three more lights were added in 1996 and executed by L & C Simpson of Easton.
The late 13th century southeast window has been lowered to form sedilia (seats, where the clergy sat during some of the long sung parts of the mediaeval High Mass). Eastwards of this, beneath a simple late 13th century arch, is the piscina drain, into which was poured the water from the washing of the priest's hands at the Eucharist. It was uncovered in 1852 and its arch was partially recut. The cruets and the glass engraved wafer box are in memory of David Quartley one-time Churchwarden of the parish.
The stonework of the east window was renewed in 1865. Its colourful stained glass was designed and made in 1907 by Jones & Willis in memory of Elizabeth Cavell who died in 1894 and was an aunt of Nurse Edith Cavell (born 1865 and shot by the Germans in 1915 for helping wounded British soldiers to escape from France). The glass shows the crucified Christ, with his mother and St John to the left and Mary Magdalene kneeling beneath the cross. Surrounding this scene are angels and archangels including Michael (the church's Patron Saint) and Gabriel. (Another relation of Nurse Cavell, her great-uncle Edward Cavell who died in 1867, is commemorated in the church at Bawdsey. There may be others.)
In 2003, parishioner Angela Littler Hart discovered an interesting, and previously un-noticed, piece of graffiti. Scratched into one of the diamond-shaped panes in the middle window of the south side of the nave an inscription reads: `John Cran, Stone Mason, Saxmundham, Sept 19th 1821'.
So far it has not been possible to find out anything of John Cran. It is likely that John Cran was an apprentice stonemason - a likely lad who wanted to carve his name for posterity (unofficially, perhaps thinking that it would not happen officially!). It has been suggested that he might have spelt his name wrongly (that is, without an `e') but that is not very likely as he got everything else right and the hand appears competent. If he worked for a monumental mason he was probably at least literate. More likely he was an apprentice - and a bit of a likely lad - who sat up on the window ledge in his lunch break, while his superiors were across the road in the White Horse pub, and was inspired to carve his name!
The five stone panels forming the reredos contain the Lord's Prayer, Creed and Commandments and `This do in remembrance of me' in the central panel. It was made by Henry Clutten of Framlingham and given by the farmer and merchant William Row, Churchwarden, in 1865.
MEMORIALS … on the walls and in the floors of the church commemorate people of the past who have been part of the community, including:
A wooden wall tablet with metal engraved sheet in Latin, near the vestry door, to Richard Thurston who died in 1616. His `griefstricken' grandsons Edmund Palmer and William Curtis erected it (though this is not its original site).
A marble plaque (in the form of a scroll) on the north sanctuary wall to the Reverend Alfred Bennett who died in 1878 having been Vicar here for four years.
A ledger slab in the nave floor to James Goodwyn (1650).
Also in the nave centre aisle floor is an unusual and interesting chalice brass (although the chalice itself is separate from the inscription and its provenance therefore open to discussion). The inscription positioned below it is to Thomas Kyng “… sometime Vicar of this church which died 26 day of April in the year of our Lord 1523”.
There has been much speculation over this inscription as the engraver appears to have made a mistake hence there is an indentation and abrasion between the words `lieth' and `Thomas'. Since the lettering is apparently not contemporary with Thomas Kyng, could the engraver have made another, more serious error? In the Registers (which start in 1554) the very first entry is a date for Thomas Kyng's burial, said to be 15 April 1423 - a hundred years previous. Either the engraver made a mistake or the Parish Registrar misread the date (although it is curious that the registrar includes 15 April most specifically, but the inscription does not, or why he should have included it at all in 1554 unless for a reason).
The engraver also uses the word `which' instead of `who' therefore raising another possibility. The `which' might refer to the church rather than to Thomas Kyng and could be a hidden witness to the `old' religion. Not everyone in England was behind the King's Reformation and the 1530s were uncertain times. The clergy continued to commission monuments in Latin, or in a mixture of Latin and English, long after the Reformation. The key to this particular inscription could lie in the precise dating of the lettering and style used.
Three ledger slabs, now hidden beneath the sanctuary carpet, commemorate Margery Johnson (1674) daughter of William Browne Snr and Elizabeth, William Browne Jr (1666) and Mary Browne his widow (1699). Pictures of these slabs may be seen in the History Corner.
In September 2001, a `Mendlesham' design Priest's Chair was made and presented to the church by Albert J Lain of Grove House to mark the Millennium. The chair is made of English elm and cherry wood and stands in the sanctuary. The `Mendlesham' chairs are constructed to a 200-year-old design, first created in the village of that name near Stowmarket in Suffolk. Each chair takes up to 50 hours for a craftsman to make. Albert and Sheila Lain pledged that for every 20 orders received for the limited edition `year 2000' chair design they would give one chair to one church in the Benefice. It is hoped eventually that each of the six churches would have a chair to use individually or combine together for any special event. The first chair to be presented went to St Michael's at Rendham and was carved with the name of the Patron Saint.
On 23 January 2000 a new Lectern Bible was blessed by Reverend Martin E Percival. This was purchased by subscription to mark the Millennium and bears the inscription:
`Dedicated, in this year of our Lord AD 2000, to the Glory of God and to all those who have served the church over the centuries and to those who continue to uphold and enhance its long tradition of Christian worship.
Reverend Martin E Percival
Leonard J Davis, Rector's Warden
John M Mellor, People's Warden.'
Rendham's first village sign, cited opposite the church, was unveiled on 31 December 2000 by its designer Mrs Johan Taylor and a blessing performed by the Reverend Jonathan Olanczuk. The sign depicts the church and the Head of Claudius, plus a Suffolk Punch horse, a cow, black pig and sheep.
Details of these memorials, and all other aspects of the church furniture, can be found in the NADFAS Church Record which was started in 1997 and was carried out by:
Jane Catt, Ann Mangan, Ursula Mallorie, Rosemary Sleap, John & Sally Rawstron, Marjorie Bucke, Benny Powell, Jean Powell, Jean Worster, Pauline Kennedy, Jenny Cox, Jean Clouston, Margaret Fox, Morvyth Seely and Josephine Rogers. Group Leader was Judith Groves, the artist Barbara Moor, photographers Chris Favell and Norman Worster, and word processing was carried out by Jocelyn and Caroline Shove.
This guide was compiled & edited by Carol Twinch who wishes to thank:
Roy Tricker (for permission to recycle his 1993 Guide and subsequent advice); Dr John Blatchly (co-author of The Journal of William Dowsing for information specific to Rendham); and Dr Paul Sealey, Archaeology Department at Colchester Museum (for information about Boudica and Romano-England with specific reference to the Head of Claudius).
Iveagh MSS (1302) transcribed by John Munday
MS 34560 (1325) Register of Sibton Abbey
The Sibton Abbey Estates, Select documents 1325-1509 (Suffolk Records Society 1960)
Rendham Church Guide (Commissioned by Lady June Gwatkin in 1992)
Exploring St Michael's Church, Rendham Roy Tricker (1993)
Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches (No 3 East Suffolk) D P Mortlock (1992)
Record of Church Furnishings, St Michael's Church, Rendham, Suffolk (The National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Society, 2001)
The Journal of William Dowsing: Iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War, Edited by Trevor Cooper (2001)
The Boudican Revolt against Rome Paul R Sealey (1997 & 2000)
Great Suffolk Stories (Chapter 18: Boudicca, The Warrior Queen) Carol Twinch (2003)