THE FOUNDING OF HOLY TRINITY CHURCH STOWUPLAND
The parish of Stowupland in Suffolk is unusual in one respect. Until 1843 it was without a Parish church and there is no record of it ever previously having had one. One explanation may be that there were originally two churches standing in the churchyard at Stowmarket and that one was used by Stowupland folk. In the list of landowners that opens the Suffolk Little Domesday Book the King is listed first and lands held directly by him are detailed first in the book. At that time both Stowmarket and Stowupland were included in the manor of Thorney and Thorney is the opening entry of ”Lands of the King, belonging to the realm”. It is stated that there was a church here before 1066 in the time of King Edward. There was also “a chapel which four brothers built on their own land, next to the cemetery of the mother church”.
The main church on the site of the present Stowmarket Church was dedicated to St. Peter. The smaller church or chapel was dedicated to St. Mary. It is thought that this small chapel served Stowupland and the main church served the town. The original parish boundary with Stowmarket was the river Gipping so much of what is now in the parish of Stowmarket was then included in Stowupland and close to the church. These two churches each had their own priests but were consolidated possibly as early as the 14th Century. The smaller of the churches which lay in the south east part of the churchyard eventually fell into ruin and was demolished around 1546. Foundations were later encountered when graves were dug in this part of the churchyard.
This does not entirely explain why Stowupland did not later establish its own church. While most of the parishes’ population clustered around Thorney Green would be within two miles of the church at Stowmarket the areas furthest away such as the far end of Saxham Street would be some four miles away. Some living in these outlying parts of the parish would have found it easier to attend Old Newton church.
When St. Mary’s Church fell into disuse both parishes used the remaining St. Peter’s which now added the demolished church’s dedication to become St. Peter and St. Mary’s, Stowupland people would use the north door and sit in the north aisle. The Stowmarket townspeople occupied the nave and south aisle.
Although having no church of its own Stowupland operated as a separate parish appointing its own churchwardens. It kept its own registers of baptisms, marriages and burials even though these ceremonies were all performed at Stowmarket. Stowupland also contributed a share towards the church maintenance and expenses.
This inconvenient situation continued into the 19th century. After the Reformation there were few new churches built in Suffolk for some 300 years. Toward the end of the 18th century the country saw a dramatic rise in population which continued to increase into the next century. In Stowmarket the new Gipping Navigation opened in 1793 attracted new industry to the town and the population rose from 1,761 in 1801 to 3,043 in 1841. Much of the new industry was situated along the north bank of the Gipping which at that time was in Stowupland parish. Stowupland’s population showed an increase from 709 in 1801 to 903 in 1841. This increase meant that churches needed more accommodation for their growing congregations. One way of increasing a churches capacity was to build wooden galleries. Stowmarket church had erected a gallery at the west end of the nave in which the singers sat and behind them the school children. There were also south and north galleries erected between the aisle pillars.
Despite the general increase in population Stowupland remained without its own church until the arrival of the Reverend Hollingsworth. Having overseeing repairs and modernisation to Stowmarket church and vicarage Hollingsworth turned his attention to the need for a separate church for the Stowupland congregation. However, having tapped the available sources of funding so recently in Stowmarket he saw serious difficulties in building and endowing another church. A less expensive scheme was considered whereby a school could be built in Stowupland that could also be used for church services. At this point though The Marquis of Bristol was approached by a third party and indicated that he was willing to make a generous donation towards a church. The vicar took this as “the indicating finger of Providential determinations” and set about soliciting subscriptions amongst personal friends, collecting two or three hundred pounds. Due to illness at this time he spent more than a year away from Suffolk recuperating in Jersey staying with his mother and father who had retired there.
In addition to the problems of accommodating a growing population another factor driving the establishment of a new church was the increase in popularity of the various non-conformist congregations. Added to this the emergence of the high church Oxford Movement during the preceding 10 years the Anglican Church was facing a lot of competition.
There had been Independent and Baptist congregations in Stowmarket for many years attending their own chapels as well as nearby non-conformist strongholds such as Combs and Battisford. Now more chapels were being built in the town and villages. The new tradesmen attracted to the town since the opening of the Gipping Navigation such as the Prentice and Lankester families were members of non-conformist congregations and willing to put money into financing new chapels in the area.
Stowupland also had a small Independent Chapel based in a house of one of the congregation which was soon to be replaced with a purpose-built chapel.
On his return from Jersey he took up the task of raising funds once more. The recent introduction of the Penny Post suggested a novel method of fund raising to him, a method that we would call “crowd-funding” today. The Uniform Penny Post initiated by the Post-Master General Rowland Hill in 1840 greatly reduced the cost of sending a letter. A prepaid stamp was introduced, the world’s first postage stamp – the Penny Black.
Hollingsworth took advantage of this new postage system to appeal by letter to people throughout the country. From May 1841 letters were sent to people who may be expected to contribute to the project. With each letter was sent details of the appeal requesting just one shilling towards the fund and enclosing a stamped addressed envelope. The actual work of writing the letters and envelopes was undertaken by a committee consisting of Reverend Hollingsworth and several prominent Stowmarket ladies. Among these were Hollingsworth’s wife Margaret and one of his daughters, probably the eldest, Sophie who was about 15 at the time, the other ladies were,
Elizabeth Bree, the wife of local surgeon Charles Bree.
Anne Hart wife of the bank manager John George Hart.
Mrs Mumford, possibly Eliza Mumford wife of a wine and spirit merchant.
Miss King, one of the daughters of Benjamin King a Stowmarket businessman.
Mrs Marriott, probably Anna the wife of John Marriott an attorney. Marriotts had been lords of the manor of Thorney Hall in Stowupland.
The bulk of the work of addressing and stuffing the envelopes was undertaken by the vicar, his wife and daughter. The published account of this endeavour reads as follows –
“For many hours and far into the night the untiring patience of the two ladies at the vicarage, proceeded for three months to direct and seal one hundred and fifty letters each day. Seventeen thousand letters were in this manner addressed through the post to all ranks of person. For the first week the answers were scanty and the donations few. But after that period from every part of England and Wales, from every county and almost every town, replies were made, and gold, silver, and notes came in. A new labour now arose of replying to every donation which exceeded one shilling, and 740 notes of thanks were written by the two ladies of the vicarage…. 203 dead letters only in this great number were made. One thousand pounds was received through the Penny Post in coin, and thirty-six thousand stamps were used …. Eight hundred and sixty notes of encouragement, of blessings, of humorous effusions in verse, and friendly texts and cordial wishes are in the possession of the vicar’s family.”
Accounts of both the laying of the foundation stone and the opening of the new church, probably written by Hollingsworth himself were published. Most of the information about the fund raising and the ceremonies comes from these accounts.
A half-acre field called Pitmans beside the road that led through the village was donated for the proposed church by Charles Rayner Freeman of Stowupland Hall. Appointed to design the church was Thomas Marsh Nelson a London architect. Why he was chosen is not known but he would have been in his mid-twenties at this time so may have been less expensive than a more established architect. There is evidence that he was designing a development in Yarmouth at around the same time. He was not primarily a church architect; the only other church know by him is St. John the Evangelist in Clapham designed in 1842. Built in a classical style with no doubt a much larger budget, it is a very different church from Stowupland. The builder appointed was a local man, Daniel Revett who had worked on buildings such as Stowmarket’s Corn Exchange in 1836 (now the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts). In 1837 Hollingsworth had employed him to carry out the work on Stowmarket vicarage.
The weather was remarkably fine. Stowmarket church bells started ringing early with union flags flying from the steeple. Reverend Hollingsworth entertained a crowd of the townspeople and guests at the vicarage for breakfast.
The whole neighbourhood being in a holiday mood. The road to Stowupland was lined with crowds all the way with many walking and riding to the site.
Rows of seats were set out around the foundation stone for the prominent inhabitants while wagons were drawn up for others to watch the proceedings. The stone was suspended from a triangular frame over the south-west corner of the site of the tower. A cavity was left beneath for the deposit of a glass vase which would contain a record of the project. At the entrance to the site a union flag was suspended from a tree.
At 12.30pm. the Stowmarket brass band accompanied by crowds of people with banners and wagons, including the children of Stowmarket Sunday school arrived. Many more people continued to arrive until 1pm. when the ceremony began. Several of the local aristocracy were represented including Lady Pocklington of Chelsworth who owned land in the parish and Sir Augustus and Lady Henniker of Haughley. In all some twenty-five clergy from nearby parishes were in attendance.
When all were assembled, the numbers being estimated at between 2000 and 3000 people, Charles Tyrell, Reverend Hollingsworth, Reverend Galindo his curate and Daniel Revett the builder took up their positions near the stone. Laid out on a table nearby were the glass vase and documents that would be interred under the stone. Beside them lay the silver trowel with ivory handle inscribed with the names of the ladies committee and a polished oak mallet that would be used in the ceremony.
The ceremony started with all singing the 100th Psalm accompanied by the Stowmarket band. Reverend Galindo then offered up prayers. An address by Charles Tyrell followed stressing the lack of accommodation and the need for a church here. He hoped that it would be “paving the way for a better, and more full and regular observance of the Sabbath-day.” He thanked the ladies of the fund-raising committee for their “not to be surpassed exertions”.
Hollingsworth then, with the trowel in his hand, addressed Mr. Tyrell thanking him on behalf the ladies for his remarks. He reflected on the fact that Tyrell’s ancestors had lived here for 500 years. They had laid the foundations of the chapel at Gipping and the pleasure that he must feel in being engaged in the laying of the foundation stone here today.
Tyrell then took the trowel and spread a layer of mortar. Then depositing the glass vase in the cavity provided, the stone was raised by pullies and lowered into its position. Taking the mallet, he tapped the stone three times “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Silence fell amongst the impressed onlookers; a further hymn was sung after which Hollingsworth addressed the multitude at length. He drew upon biblical references to the founding of temples and upon Britain’s early ecclesiastical history saying that the church would be dedicated to the Holy Trinity and would strengthen the influence of the established church in the area against the influence of non-conformism and Roman Catholicism, He also warned against “the doctrines of radical Chartism” that sought to redistribute land on a more equal basis. Support for the Chartist movement was at its strongest at that time.
Hollingsworth’s sermon, which is given in full in the published account, must have taken the best part of an hour to deliver. The occasion ended with a lengthy prayer and the singing of the National Anthem a final collection was made amounting to £57 towards the building fund. A large party returned to the vicarage at 3pm. where they were treated to refreshments.
At least one of those present on the day felt inspired to record his impressions in verse. This was probably the George Carr who ran a private school in Stowmarket at the time:~
“Written after being present at the ceremony
of laying the first stone of Stowupland Church.
By George Carr
The sun looked out from his azure home
And the fields, the trees, the streams
The insects, birds and beasts rejoiced
In the brightening of his beams.It was a scene to look upon
On such a sunny day
The old, the young, the high, the low
The good, the great, the gay.”
Some 15 months later the building was complete, and plans were made for the consecration.
The Right Reverend Edward Stanley Bishop of Norwich would perform the consecration ceremony on the date set, Wednesday 30th August 1843. The Ipswich Journal gives an account of the ceremony. The Bishop arrived at the church shortly before 11am where he was met by no less than 48 clergy. The consecration complete, Hollingsworth took the first service in the new building, the Bishop taking communion. A sermon was then preached by Reverend Lord Arthur Hervey vicar of Ickworth and Chedburgh who would in 1869 be appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells. Admission to the church and churchyard was by ticket; 1450 people were present with more in waggons viewing from outside the churchyard. A collection was taken raising over £60. Afterwards 153 people adjourned to the town hall in Stowmarket for refreshments with Charles Tyrell presiding.
So, what did people think of this new church? The Ipswich Journal had a note of criticism in it’s report of the consecration saying “we must regret that the architect does not appear to have thoroughly comprehended the details of the style considering the extremely simple forms which a plain building of this style required, it is inexcusable in architects not to pay regard to it’s peculiarities, Such errors may be overlooked by the unpractised eye, but must offend everyone whose taste has been formed by a comparison and observation of the ancient specimens of art.“
When the church was being built the Gothic Revival had become mainstream and gothic was being accepted as the style for all large public buildings. The revival of interest in mediaeval architecture had originated in the mid-18th century but at first was mainly applied to private houses such as Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in Twickenham.
The movement grew in influence and by the time a wave of church building and restoration began around 1840 it was becoming the accepted style for church building. Supporters of the new style were critical of any architect who did not reproduce the style correctly. Thomas Nelson the architect however was probably limited due to a tight budget and was not primarily a church architect. His other church of around this time in Clapham is a Classical design so he may not have been so familiar with the Gothic style.
Disappointment in the completed church is also apparent eight years later when the census of religious worship was taken in 1851.
The incumbent of every place of worship in the country was asked to complete a form giving details of the number of people attending services. Hollingworth’s successor in Stowupland, Reverend Robert Willan Smith, could not resist adding the comment that in his opinion it was “a contract job and very badly done” adding a Latin quotation translated as “beware this man”.
The incumbent was asked to give average attendances. The church had seating for 250 but the average number given for morning service was just 50 and 80 for afternoon service. Compare Old Newton with a similar population: it attracted an average of 150 in the mornings and 300 to the afternoon service. Even more telling was the number of people attending Stowupland’s Independent Chapel. The present chapel was opened in 1850 so there must have been a large potential non-conformist congregation in the parish to make a new chapel worthwhile. The number attending the chapel’s single Sunday service was 130 – as many as the parish church could attract in its two Sunday services. We can guess that many Stowupland people continued to attend Stowmarket services as they had done previously.
The money raised for building the church did not cover the cost of furnishing it. Stowupland relied heavily on items being donated or found from disused churches.
The origin of the pulpit is something of a mystery, the ornate carving is Flemish work of the early 1600s. One story states that it was found buried in Stowmarket church. This may be possible as the carved scenes from the life of Christ may have run the risk of being defaced in the purges led by William Dowsing in 1644. Had this been the case however we would expect Hollingworth with his interest in the town’s history to have included it in his account. More likely is that it was obtained by Hollingworth possibly from the continent.
The oldest item in the church and dating from the 14th century is the octagonal font; this had been originally in Creeting All Saints church. This church shared a churchyard with Creeting St. Mary, the parishes being eventually amalgamated, and the remains of All Saints demolished around 1800. The pedestal of the font was converted into a sundial in the garden of Creeting St. Mary rectory. The basin was made into a water fountain or bird bath at Ringshall rectory. These two parts were now reunited having been presented to Stowupland by Reverend Dupuis of Creeting St. Mary and Reverend Parker of Ringshall.
On the third of September at the first Sunday service in the church the first two babies were baptised in this font. These children were Hannah Gould and Emma Ann Woods.
In his publication Hollingworth makes much of this font, he tells how “Having been restored to its original use, these circumstances excited some interest and several copies of verses were the consequence. One of these from Eton was printed by the Reverend G. Dupuis and presented to the Lord Bishop, the chairman and vicar for distribution at the breakfast on the day of the consecration – the second (in Latin and English) is from Oxford … and presented to Reverend C. Parker”.
An extract of the English verse reads as follows:
In me were babes baptised of old;
Through me they sought the Christian fold;
And knights and dames of high degree
On bended knees encircled me.
Oh! What a tale have I to tell –
How Creeting’s Church and Creeting’s bell,
With my own stem, was sold to bear
Their part of rates of that sad year.
Oh! What a tale! My pedestal Was borne to moated Ringeshall,
Became a dial-stand to shew
The shadows which the gnomen drew,
To give the Parish clerk the time,
When bells should either toll or chime.
And I a water-vase became;
Lost was my glory, lost my name.
On me no more the infant smil’d;
But brighter prospects are at hand:
On my own stem again I stand:
Again beneath a Church’s dome.
I’ve “flowrets for a world to come,”
The cast iron Royal Arms that hang on the west wall must also have come from elsewhere. They predate the church and are the arms of George the fourth, not Victoria the reigning monarch.
An idea of the contents of the church in its early days is given by an inventory of Stowmarket and Stowupland churches taken in 1844.
“velvet cushions for the Pulpit, Reading Desk and Altar – an Altar Cloth of Crimson silk Velvet I.H.S. + in Gold presented by Miss Stanley, Daughter of the Right Revd. E. Stanley, Bishop of Norwich.
One Carpet, a Quarto Bible, A Quarto Prayer Book, a Quarto Communion Prayer Book, a small Prayer book for Funerals, a fine linen Cloth, and three Napkins for the Holy Sacrament. 2 brass candlesticks in pulpit.
The Queens Arms of Iron.
The Tables of Offerings and Gifts.
2 arm chairs
One cast iron stove
In the Vestry
One Table a small Closet, one Surplice, one Scarf, one Glass, one Basin and Jug, and one Tumbler –
a plan of the Church in a frame one Cup, silver
one paten, silver”
The present organ was obtain from Culford church in the 20th century.
A version of this article was first published in Suffolk Local History Council’s Suffolk Review no. 76 Spring 2021.