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The tiny Church of St Peter is one of the 11 ancient churches situated in a sparsely populated area known as “The Saints”, south of Bungay. According to the census of 1841 the population of the parish of St. Peter was 91 souls whilst in 1985 it had decreased to 30 souls in 11 households.
The earliest incumbent known was Joes de Uflet in 1328. The church was then probably part of the ruined Minster at St. Margaret South Elmham, traditionally founded by Bishop Felix in the C7th. The unwritten history of the site goes back further, probably to a Roman camp used by Saxon tribes.
The church tower was probably built in the C14th, and the fine Norman doorway was the remains of canopied brackets. The nave has a good timbered roof and carved cornice. There are three bells hung in the tower and two of them were certainly cast by William Dawe in 1385. There are believed to be only 24 of his bells in existence. Two of St Peter’s bells are probably unique in that they bear Dawe’s trademark – a medallion upon which are two birds.
The fine C14th chancel arch has carved heads and quatrefoils with a canopied niche on either side. In the north chancel wall is the lower part of a sculpted altar tomb, all that remains of the Lady chapel which was probably destroyed by Cromwell’s soldiers. John Tasburgh Esq. of St. Peter’s Hall, and the likely founder of the church, desired in his will of 1473 to be buried in the Chapel of Our Lady Mary Virgin on the north side of St. Peter’s.
The font may be C15th or earlier. It has angels at the corners of the basin and lions around the shaft. The carved wooden cover is C17th.
The pulpit is C18th. There is a fine C20th wooden chancel screen surmounted by a crucifixion group.
According to the Suffolk Trust for Nature Conservation, the churchyard is a remarkable refuge for flora and fauna. On the outside of the porch on the eastern side of the church a tiny sundial is scored in the stonework. A large block of stone which lies near the church gate is the base of an old cross.
At the present time the Church is attended by a small but faithful congregation, boosted by members of the other Benefice churches. The Church doors remain open all the time so anyone can use the Church for private prayers or just to visit. With its close proximity to St. Peter’s Hall brewery, this is appreciated and used accordingly.
The Church is easily accessible for disabled persons.
S Elmham St Peter
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