Walpole Old Chapel and Huntingfield Church
Friends of Woodbridge Museum Summer Visit 7th June 2018
The journey to Walpole Old Chapel by car through the fecund Suffolk countryside in early summer was a joy in itself.ï¿½ From the outside the Old Chapel was rather unprepossessing, an obviously ancient white building, surrounded by a graveyard. This gave no clue to the amazing structure inside. Our guide, Phil, told us it was converted into a chapel from an old farmhouse. The conversion was most interesting since the three strengthening pillars appeared to be recycled ship's masts. The chapel was founded in 1689 by a group of six trustees from the local area. These men were Dissenters who desired freedom of worship and a less structured religion.
The interior is very plain, box pews and a gallery of stripped pine, muted paintwork, with an incredible elevated pulpit and sounding board. Truly the Word overtaking the Sacrament.ï¿½ I tried to imagine it crowded with good honest working folk in sombre clothes listening to long sermons and shaking the rafters with their hymns.ï¿½ Alas now it is no longer used as a place of worship but houses many community events during the year. Well worth a visit.
We left the Chapel and drove to a nearby church, St Mary's in Huntingfield. What a contrast this was, the church was an ordinary flint knapped mediaeval building but inside it held a treasure. We all felt the ceiling had the WOW factor. The church Warden and her husband told us about this amazing artwork. The roof was replaced in the mid 19th century by the Rector, the Rev. William Holland. The resulting bare wood was decorated over a period of fifteen years by his wife, Mildred. I had a vision of a long skirted Victorian lady being hauled up to the ceiling on two planks by some local labourers. There are no records of sketches, nor plans, so we are not sure how she achieved this spectacular and colourful feat. Colour and gilding abound, with serried ranks of angels and saints looking down on one. The church interior is truly wonderful, but my favourite item was a tiny hare portrayed in some remaining mediaeval glass.ï¿½ Again a place to be recommended for a visit.
The afternoon was rounded off with a sumptuous, good old fashioned tea of sandwiches, scones and cake provided by the friendly landlord of The Huntingfield Arms.
The word "delightful" kept cropping up in my mind so I will use that word to describe the whole afternoon visit. Many thanks to Anne, and her team, for the chance to see such wonders in Suffolk.