See table below for listing of upcoming Church Services for the whole benefice.
Priest-in-Charge | Reverend Philip Merry | 01359 258 806
Church Wardens | Janet Kerridge 01359 259563 | Collen Baker 01359 259258
Enter your postcode to find Live Streamed Morning and Evening Prayer, and Sunday Communion near you
Take a look at photographer Simon Knott’s ‘Norfolk Odyssey’ album showcasing, St. Mary’s Church in Walsham le Willows.
Located in The Causeway next to the crossroads by the Six Bells Inn at post code IP31 3AB, St. Mary’s was built sometime in the last thousand years. When William the Conqueror ordered a written survey of England in 1086, Walsham (the Saxon name) already had a church. A church was here when that Domesday Survey was made in 1086.
Many pre–conquest Suffolk churches were built of flint, the natural stone of East Anglia. That building has long gone, though the materials have been used and reused over the centuries. A recognisable fragment from the late 1100s can be seen in the north aisle. The tower and the font belong to the 1300s, but the church had its greatest make-over from about 1400, when the builders were busy, on and off, for a century.
Eight-sided pillars or piers frame the nave. The oak roof is one of the finest in a county famous for its church roofs. The tie-beams alternate with the stubby hammerbeams which take the thrust from above, and originally they were decorated with carved angels.
The basic roof was finished by 1450, but additional decorations we re added in 1475, the year that John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, became Lord of the Manor. The King, Edward IV was his brother-in-law, and as a loyal gesture he nailed up the King’s favourite badge, the rose en soleil. This device can be seen on most of the roof-braces. The paint too, now beautifully faded, dates from 1475. John de la Pole also fixed four stone beasts from the King’s heraldry to the top of the old tower. Similar stonework is at Royal Windsor, but ours is medieval, not an expensive modern replacement.
The carved angels on the hammerbeams were removed by the churchwardens in 1538, acting on the orders of Edward IV’s grandson, Henry VIII. The carvings, then less than a century old, must have been lifted off quite carefully and the wooden tenons which fixed them are still in place.
In the nave on the south side hangs a small wooden plaque unique in Suffolk. It is a simple memorial to Mary Boyce who died aged 20 in 1685. The carved hearts imply that she died after an unhappy love affair.
Repairs continued throughout the years, and there are 18th century bills for mending numerous windows and whitewashing the font. During the Napoleonic Wars the churchwardens commissioned the huge painting of the royal arms now over the south door. The medieval screen was extensively restored in 1842, a clever piece of later joinery and painting. The builders came back in force in 1878. The flooring, most of the benches and the pulpit date from then. The chancel, beyond the restored screen, was almost completely rebuilt, although the 15th century stalls and later monuments were skilfully conserved. The impressive terracotta reredos of the Last Supper was set up in 1883, a surprising piece for what was, by then, a relatively obscure village.
Detailed guides on the main structure and the important Victorian features can be obtained in the church.
The Benefice Ministry and the Parish magazine
St Mary’s Church Walsham-le-Willows has worked in close co-operation with its neighbouring churches from the Millennium until 1st March 2015 as one of the eight that made up the Benefice of Badwell and Walsham.
The current, smaller benefice is made up of six parishes, St Mary’s Walsham-le-Willows, St. Margaret’s Westhorpe, St. Bartholomew’s Finningham, St. Mary’s Badwell Ash and St. Mary’s Langham and St. Margaret’s Wattisfield.
The name of the benefice magazine, the Hexagon, reflects the number of churches in the benefice. It is published bi-monthly and distributed to every home in the six parishes.
All six congregations regularly share services together. These are usually early Sunday morning in St Catherine’s Chapel (St. Mary’s, Walsham-le-Willows), on Wednesday mornings (touring different churches in the benefice) and about every three weeks on a Sunday morning at half-past ten. You can find the dates the web site A Church Near You.
St Mary’s Walsham-le-Willows also holds its own village services mid-morning on a Sunday. These are either Mattins or the Eucharist. There is no traditional Sunday School, but a monthly Children’s Praise takes place when children accompanied by their parents meet in church with other members of the regular congregation.
The Bells of St. Marys
Walsham Parish Church has a 11 cwt (465kg.) ring of six bells. The treble, second, third, fifth and tenor were cast by Charles and Thomas Newman between 1699 & 1704. The fifth and the tenor were recast by John Warner in 1900. The newest, by John Taylor & Co. in 1988, replaced the 1576 by Stephen Tonni.
Change ringing developed in England during the 17th century and remains unique to the British Isles and other parts of the world where British people have settled. The bells are fitted with wheels allowing them to be swung through 360 degrees giving the ringers control over the timing of each stroke, enabling them to vary the order of the bells in each row of change and so ring complex patterns in which every change is different!
On the six bells of St. Mary’s Walsham-le-Willows 720 changes are possible whilst on eight bells the changes can reach 40,320! The ringing chamber is at the top of 35 steps with the bells another 28 steps higher.
The inscription on an oak tie beam is:
‘THIS ROOF WAS MADE ANEW AND THE BELLS REHUNG A.D. 1900’
In 1988 the bells were retuned. A new 4th was cast and all were hung with new fittings, in the existing frame. The old bell was given to Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds.
Click on a bell to see the inscription and weights.
The Walsham Ringers practice on Friday evenings from 7.30 to 9.00 and they ring for Sunday services and on special occasions.
St. Mary’s Churchyard and Lychgate
The 10th of December 2006 saw the movement of the lychgate from the old entrance to the existing cemetery which is sited on what was once known as Kiln Meadow. Over 100 years ago this entrance had been positioned just before a sharp bend in the Ixworth road and over the years it had now become far too dangerous for its original use. Consequently a decision was made that it should be moved back along the road nearer to the Six Bells crossroads and at the same time a small lay-by would also be provided for the use of visitors to the graveyard and for the vehicles that would be involved with any future internments.
The lychgate was originally built by village craftsmen including a certain John Morley who requested that his body should be buried close to the gate when he died. Hopefully he would not have been too upset by the reasoning for its re-siting.
The oak used for the lychgate was all from within the Parish into which various biblical texts have been carved. The whole structure was held together with wooden pegs and obviously needed very careful handling when lifting by crane from its old position to be repositioned its new foundations.
The Churchyard at St Mary’s Parish Church was fully occupied by 1890 which was the date of the last burial on that site.
Mr. John Martineau then generously gave three quarters of an acre in Kiln Meadow to accommodate all future burials. The cemetery has had to be enlarged on three occasions with the latest being in 2007 at the same time as the lychgate was moved exactly as planned and it was finally consecrated at 4.30pm on Sunday, June 3rd 2007.