The later Middle Ages saw the small coastal ports of East Suffolk experience a degree of relative prosperity that they would not see again until they were ‘discovered’ by London emigrés in the 1980s. Their communities built splendid 15th century churches at places like Blythburgh, Kessingland, Aldeburgh and Walberswick, but nowhere exemplifies it better than Southwold. A fire early in the 15th c. provided an added impetus for the rebuilding which was largely completed by the 1460s and 70s.The tower is outstanding, with the inscription SA(nc)T EDMUND ORA P(ro): NOBIS around the top of the big W. window. In 1456, one John Busshop (Bishop) left £20 towards its building as well as a bequest to the bells, suggesting that it was approaching completion. The body of the church was ready for the new roodscreen then, and money was left towards its painting in 1481; the roodscreen remains, stretching across the whole width of the church, bearing the Twelve Apostles in the nave, Old Testament prophets in the S aisle and the Nine Orders of Angels in the N aisle. Their faces were defaced after the Reformation, but no other mediaeval screen in Suffolk remains so complete.

    The interior is really light, helped by a German bomb removing a good deal of glass in 1943; the E window is Comper’s replacement and his last work (1954). F. E. Howard carried out a good deal of restoration each side of 1930; the colourful lectern and towering font cover are his. The mediaeval wineglass pulpit was also recoloured, rather enthusiastically.  The hammerbeam roof retains its angels; some of it has been recoloured, both in the chancel and also as a canopy of honour for the (non-existent) rood. Don’t miss the 15th c. figure against the tower arch, a ‘clock jack’ who uses an axe to strike the bell.


Map reference: TM507763

Simon Cotton