March 2017

Simon Heffer writing in the Daily Telegraph earlier this month reminds us that the Wool Churches of East Anglia are not only a testament to man’s self interested route to heaven but also a legacy of glorious architectural experience.  Holy Trinity, Long Melford in Suffolk he says has long taken the garland for the finest wool church of all, and deservedly so.  Here Edward Cobbold, 1798-1860 (#108 on the family tree) was Rector from 1830 until his death.

 “Seen majestic on its eminence beyond a vast greensward as one approaches from the great mile-long village street, it could be a cathedral.  The village’s cloth merchants funded its building in the last decades of the 15th century, developing an older, smaller church that had stood since the 1380s.  The names of those merchants – notably the Clopton family – are engraved on the walls, enjoining those who read them to pray for their souls, over the fine perpendicular windows for which they paid, and in the Lady Chapel.

Outside, the most elaborate flushwork abounds, and an upward feeling is given not just by the tower (which was raised still further by Bodley in the 1890s) but by the many windows in the elevations.  Inside, one gets an overwhelming sense of distance – the nave and chancel combined are 153ft long – and then notices the fine furnishings, mostly 19th century but lacking that cultural vandalism with which Victorians so often approached church restoration.  Then one takes in the superb stained glass, some of it 15th century depicting some of the church’s donors kneeling in prayer: there is no better medieval glass in Suffolk.

Above all, the church abounds in fine funerary monuments, not least to one of those donors, John Clopton, who died in 1497, and lies in a chest of Purbeck marble”.

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