The grade one listed Church of St Edmund, in the beautiful seaside town of Southwold on the Suffolk coast, is full of delights, too many for one post, in fact, even for two. We will start with the roof, mainly as the first thing I do when entering any church, is to look upwards, hoping for roof angels. In this case, yes there were, unfortunately not medieval, but still very beautiful. There were once medieval angels, in this impressive mid-15th century archbraced and hammerbeam roof which is continuous from Nave through to the Chancel, but they suffered from a visit by William Dowsing Commissioner for the destruction of monuments of idolatry and superstition” to carry out a Parliamentary Ordinance of 28 August 1643 which stated that “all Monuments of Superstition and idolatry should be removed and abolished.
Dowsing carried out his work in 1643–44 by visiting over 250 churches in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, removing or defacing items that he thought fitted the requirements outlined in the ordinance. He recruited assistants, apparently among his friends and family, and where they were unable to perform the work themselves, he left instructions for the work to be carried out. Sometimes the local inhabitants assisted his work, but often he was met by resistance or non-co-operation. His commission, backed up by the ability to call on military force if necessary, meant that he usually got his way. He charged each church a noble (a third of a pound) for his services.
The Angels which suffered in Dowsing’s visit in April 1644, were replaced during the 19th century restoration of the roof, 12 placed on the hammers in the Nave and 8 in the Chancel. All the Chancel Angels have brightly gilded wings to beautiful effect, 2 of them are gold feathered all over including their legs.
We visited in Feburary 2016, and the light was wonderful, it just streamed through the windows of this wonderful church. The next post will be about some amazing carved bench ends and some church graffiti that I found.