History and DescriptionParish Church of St. John the Baptist Badingham
The PARISH CHURCH OF BADINGHAM stands upon an old pagan holy site, the knoll of Burstonhaugh between the marshes of the valley and the wet oak-woods that, fifteen hundred years ago, clothed the higher table-land. When the first missionaries came to Badingham they rededicated the old pagan site. The great festival at Burstonhaugh had been mid-summer night, with its blazing bale-fires: so the new church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, whose feast is on midsummer day. The church is so built that at sunrise on the patronal festival the sun shines straight in at the east window This means that the long axis of the church lies nearly NE and SW, instead of the more usual east and west: it will be seen that the sundial over the porch is set at an angle to the wall.
The Exterior. The flint tower with stone quoins is ancient and the lower stage probably dates from Norman times: observe the narrow lancet in the south wall, with the top carved out of a single stone. This may be a Saxon window re-used. The tower contains a ring of five bells. The flint flush-work porch dates from 1486. The spandrels over the door show a vigorously carved dragon and a very much weathered "wodehouse", or wild man. There is a delightful, carved hound on the weathering of the SE buttress of the porch. The nave walls show a great variety of materials including much Tudor brick in the upper courses. The south-east wall of the chancel, which was rebuilt in Victorian times, is of uncompromising grey flint. The engaged shaft of the original SW quoin of the nave is now part of the tower buttress; a much eroded carving on the weathering of this buttress is probably of the head of St. John the Baptist. On the north wall, above the roof of the boiler room are traces of a north porch.
The Interior. The nave roof and the Seven Sacraments font are Badingham's greatest treasures, but the visitor will probably be first struck by the fact that the nave floor slopes upward: rising twenty five inches from the font to the chancel steps. The engaged shafts on each side of the tower arch are part of the Norman church. The windows include thirteenth century lancets on either side, that on the north wall having an image niche of later date below it; two clerestory windows left by the Edward Rous in his will to light the rood, and dating from 1506; and an eighteenth century clerestory window in the NW corner, which lit the choir gallery, now demolished. Just inside the south door is a curiously asymmetrical niche, which probably contained the stoup.
The single hammer-beam roof of the nave is, according to the late Munro Cautley "the perfect example of a single hammer-beam roof". Of it he writes "Roofs may surpass this one in elaboration, but certainly none can in technical skill and refinement of detail". The spandrels between the wall posts are carved with flowers and reptiles.
The angels on the upward canted hammer-beams were placed there by the Rev. Foster Stable Barry Rector 1898 to 1908; the original hammer-beam angels were probably those mentioned by William Dowsing who records that at Badingham, he beat down "sixteen superstitious cherubim's". There are still traces of a painted pattern on the ceiling of the roof.
There are five mediaeval "poppy-heads" on the benches in the north-west corner of the nave.
In the ringing chamber at the base of the tower are early nineteenth century copies of the Lord's Prayer. Creed and Commandments painted on canvas.
The pulpit is of the time of Charles I. The pulpit canopy is supported by singularly hideous carved grotesques: similar figures may be seen on the lectern at Laxfield, three miles away. The reading stall on the opposite side of the church was probably the clerk's seat of a "double-decker', now separated from the pulpit. The modern oak lectern was made in the parish.
The chancel has an unattractive arch-braced roof of varnished pitch pine, and much dark Victorian stained glass. On the north wall are two tombs. The western tomb is an altar tomb of a member of the Carbonell family, probably Sir John Carbonell (1423). On each side of the tomb is a carved image bracket, and above the canopy are three stone helms with crests. The Carbonells lived in Badingham HaIl, now destroyed, at the north-east comer of the parish. The eastern and more elaborate tomb is that of William Cotton, of Colston Hall, and of his wife Lucie, and is of the time of James I. This tomb displays much elaborate heraldry of the Cotton and Rous families. The Cotton arms (azure, an eagle displayed argent armed gules, a crescent for difference or) and the Rous arms (sable, a fess dancette or between three crescents argent) are impaled on a shield borne by a charming little nymph above the tomb. William Cotton was a "batchelour" of the Civil Law, and his image wears a lawyer' s gown and indoor shoes.
The tracery at the west end of the choir stalls is from the lower panels of the rood screen. No trace of the rood loft remains, but as late as 1806 the arms of George III were displayed upon a beam crossing the church.
There is a good Stuart holy table. The front panel of the credence table is made from the door of the pulpit.
The late fifteenth century font is one of the loveliest in Suffolk. The beauty of its proportions is best appreciated from the chancel steps. The eight panels of the bowl, reading clockwise, are:
East. Baptism. The baby is being "warily dipped" in the font. The mother, wearing a wired head-dress, has the chrism rode over her right arm
South-east. Marriage. Note the turban cap in the bridegroom' s hand.
West. The Eucharist. The rite is shown at the Elevation of the Host. Note the sacring bell in the hand of the server, and the two altar lights.
North-west. Penance. Note the horned and winged fiend expelled by confession; and the somewhat cynical note stuck by the fact that the penitent is a woman!
North. Extreme Unction.
North-east. The Baptism of Our Lord. The Baptism is by effusion.
The octagonal shaft of the font bears archangels on the east and west panels; the four bishops of the church bearing scrolls, on the quarters; St. Edmund, crowned and carrying a large arrow, on the south side; and an unidentified walking figure on the north.
Badingham possesses an Elizabethan chalice and paten of 1568. The chalice is decorated with a chequer-board pattern in place of the more usual arabesques. Several Elizabethan chalices in this area bear similar ornamentation, and it is presumed that they are the work of a single itinerant silver-smith
The Parish registers include the original paper register of 1538, the year wherein registers were first ordered to be kept.