Parish Church of All Saints - Hollesley
A Few Notes of Interest
Origins: Years ago, Hollesley was a small port. It stood on an inlet of the sea, which is now the small brook and drained marsh which we overlook on the south side of the church. There were a few outlying farms, but the village centred on a group of cottages on Fox Hill, the church, and Church Farm which still remains opposite our main door.
Development: In the 19th and 20th centuries, the village developed to the north. About a mile away is Her Majestys Young Offenders Institution known as Hollesley Bay Colony. In the 19th century this was a Colonial College where industrial youths were trained for agriculture in developing countries. In 1905 it became a Labour Colony (hence its name), where many London unemployed were retrained for farm work. It had been a Borstal until 1984 when it began to cater for young offenders, and has recently been greatly enlarged with a closed detention centre. From the village point of view, before the recession this meant that in addition to the existing homes for the Borstal staff at "Oak Hill", some 300 more houses were to be built near Glebe House - the present Officers Mess - once the rectory. The government electoral roll names some 630 people.
The Church Building: The church dates from pre 1087, so where our present building sta nds has been a site of Christian worship for 900 years. Nothing is left of the first building, and the present one is a 15th century church very greatly restored in the 19th century. Dickinsons "Suffolk" (published in 1957) records - "This church was largely rebuilt in 1886, when the north aisle was added. The nave and the chancel are decorated, and the very lofty tower is perpendicular, the latter having panelled diagonal buttresses at all corners, and a west doorway with a square head, over which is a niche and a three-light perpendicular window". The walls are faced with a typical late 19th century knapped flint finish. Over the past few years, funds have been raised to have the tower repointed - a job happily completed with help of various grants in December 1980. The Spring of 1984 saw the reslating of the chancel and the south side nave. In 1985 a clock was installed in the tower in memory of the late Arthur Mortier who was a much respected resident farmer. The clock is on the west face, will strike the hour, and is the gift of Mr Mortiers family. By May 1993 the heating and lighting circuitry had been replaced, and the entire floor (which was tiled and paved with wooden blocks) had been refurbished with York Stone and timber.
Features from the Centuries: The large 13th century Purbeck marble tomb slab in the north-west corner of the nave possesses the remnants of a border inscription, and the faint outline of a priests effigy. The tomb slab is attributed to William Geyton, who was prior of Butley Abbey about 4 miles to the north. We understand there is only one other similar priors tombstone in the country, and we do not know why we, in preference to Butley Church have this one! The slab has also been used for brasses of a later date, and is now considerably worn. The windows in the nave are perpendicular except for one with "Y" tracery of about 1300 by the south door.
The south doorway also dates from about 1300. The octagonal font is on a 13th century base. Note the small Buttresses to the shaft, and its bowl panels containing Tudor roses and shield within quadrefoils. Half a holy water stoup bowl is set within a recess in the tower buttress nearest the south door. Munro Cautley in his book "Suffolk Churches" (1938) thinks this is not original, but he also notes the one just inside the south door.
15th century: Nave, chancel and tower rebuilt. Inside looking westwards note the very fine arch. Legacies recorded c. 1450.
15th/16th century: Seven 15th century benches in the side aisle have simple carved poppyheads and buttressed arm-rests with grotesques, traciered ends. Legacies are recorded in 1511 for leading the windows.
17th century: The church has a parchment register recording baptisms and burials dating back to 1623.
The Royal Arms of Charles II are hung on the wall opposite the door. The 17th century pulpit has panels carved with lozenge shapes and blind arches and the side-aisle altar holy tables are also Stuart. Some traceried heads of rood screen panels remain in chancel screen. A piscina in the south wall will have served a nave altar before the reformation.
19th century. The north-aisle was built (1895) and the 13th century arcade with alternate round and octagonal piers was uncovered. The east window glass is by Arthur L Moore.
20th century: In 1938 the ring of 8 bells was hung and is reputed to one of the finest in Suffolk. A commemorative plaque is on the inside wall to the right of the main door. During the 1950s the carved benches of traditional design which now pew the church, were made by Barnes of Ipswich and carved by Mr Harry Brown. They are fine modern carving, perhaps the finest in the county and have been reproduced in a set of ink drawings. The poppyheads illustrate many interesting themes as well as being interspersed with grotesques - look for a griffin, pelican, owl, squirrel, boar and tortoise. Note particularly the seven deadly sins, six of which are in the side-aisle, and the 1953 "Coronation Pew" is on the south side of the nave. This pew has on its back, beneath the bookrest, a brass plate with a tribute to the incumbent who worked for the installation of the pews. The original pews (referred to above) were mostly sold and replaced by chairs to pay for the re-roofing of the church.
Mr Browns contract with the church was renewed in 1977 when Captain Hugh Green made the fine bookcase for housing hymn books as one of the village commemorations of the Queens silver jubilee. Mr Brown carved the inscription which surmounts it. Three years later he also inscribed the fine memorial on the outside noticeboard to the left of the main door, to extend his connection with our church furniture to well over 30 years.
The boards on the wall opposite the door, recording the rectors and patrons from 1303, were made in prison workshops. Interestingly "Joan Queen of England" was the wife of Henry IV.
The aisle east window contains an impressive 1980s Nativity in memory of parishioners. The mouse at the Blessed Virgins feet represents a poignant connection with the veterinary profession.
A vestry, which is an extension of the north-aisle westwards in traditional style, and the aumbry safe in the south wall of the sanctuary, were dedicated in 1969.
May Gods peace go with you as you leave.
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