What to see outside St Mary's Church
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Building materials. There is a pleasing mixture of these, producing a variety of mellow colours and textures. The rubble walls of the nave, chancel and tower contain whole flints and plenty of brown septaria, which is our local building-material, obtained from near the coast between Orford Ness and the Naze. The corners, buttresses and windows have dressed stone and the west wall of the nave (apart from the bottom few feet) is built of 19th century brick. Most beautiful of all is the south aisle, which is faced in mellow Tudor bricks with a .... pattern.
The Nave. Note the inscription giving the churchwarden's name when the brick west wall was built. The three-light west window is later (1857). There is only one window in the north wall, which is in the 15th century Perpendicular style. The blocked north doorway is 14th century. We can see from the north side how short the nave is.
The Chancel. Simple "Y" traceried windows [c.1300] on the north and south sides. The east window, of three lights, appears to be of the same period, although its internal shafts are older. On the north side is a pretty priest's doorway, of Tudor brick, with its original door (over 450 years old), which has the remains of a small grille. Some people believe that this was for lepers to look through, although it is unlikely that lepers were allowed anywhere near the parish church.
The South Aisle. It received its brick casing about 1500, but the windows show that it is much older. Two of these windows are beautiful examples of the Decorated style of architecture. The large two-light east window and the south-east window date from c.1315-1330. Of similar date is the elaborate doorway, with its circular shafts and crowned corbel-heads. Some authorities suggest that it could have been the priest's doorway in the chancel, moved here when the aisle was built. To the west of it is a large three-light Perpendicular (15th century) window.
The Tower. This is imposing and very elegant and is one of about 22 porch-towers to be found in Suffolk (others may be seen at Playford, Culpho and Little Bealings, not many miles away). Note the clever design of the buttresses, which support the tower at all four corners. These have six "set-offs" (reductions in width) and this greatly enhances the dignity of the tower. The two-light belfry windows are of c.1300-1310, but the fine parapet, of flint and stone "flushwork" panelling is 15th century. Its tiny southern niche still contains fragments of its original statue. At the base of the parapet are gargoyles on the east and west sides, which throw rainwater clear of the walls. The tower is crowned by pinnacles and four angels, also stepped battlements. Another niche may be seen above the 14th century entrance arch. Carved into the western jamb (side) of this arch, gust over four feet from the floor is a fascinating graffito of a mediaeval ship of about 1450-1500, which was probably carved by a mariner
Churchyard. In the churchyard is the grave of George Page, the Suffolk giant, who died in 1870. This man is reputed to have stood 7ft 7in tall in his bare feet and his brother, Meadows, was only a few inches shorter. During his lifetime he was employed by a travelling fair and he acquired considerable fame. His epitaph reads, "The deceased was exhibited in most towns in England, but his best exhibition was with his blessed Redeemer". His grave is by the eastern side of the church path, the third headstone south from the main entrance to the church.