St Peter's and St Mary's Church in Stowmarket

Before the 1840’s Stowuplanders crossed the River Gipping to worship in this church on the Stowmarket side of the river.

In 1843 Holy Trinity, Stowupland was built. There have been questions as to whether  Stowupland had its own church before this, in a way they did but it was not in Stowupland. For a time there were 2 separate buildings within Stowmarket’s churchyard but for many centuries the parish church was shared by the people of Stowupland and Stowmarket.

Documents suggest that there was a local  church dedicated to St Peter.  In Edward II’s reign , when the borders were less distinct, Stowmarket had 2 churches next to each other. One was  St Peter which was for Stowupland and Gipping, the other was  St Mary’s for Stowmarket. The smaller of the two churches  fell into disrepair and was demolished by 1546. Parishioners of Stowupland and Stowmarket then shared the one church building for worship.People of Stowupland used the north door and the north aisle and retained their own church wardens and registers.

Wikipedia tells us “The Domesday Book indicates a population of 650 for Thorney (Thorney Island) – the original name for Stowmarket, and refers to a “mother church”, “a chapel” and “a market”. It is likely that the mother church was an Anglo Saxon Minster church, with several clergy. This notion is supported by the large endowment of glebeland, 120 acres (49 ha), which supported the clergy. The Domesday book also mentions “the church at Stow” in the entry for nearby Onehouse.[1]

The entry for Thorney records that 23 of the 120 acres “.. belong to a certain chapel which four brothers, freemen of Hugh de Montford [Lord of Haughey] built on land of their own beside the cemetery of the mother church and they were inhabitants of the parish of the mother church and built this chapel because it could not take the whole parish.” It is shown, in later wills, that the mother church of St Peter served the area of Thorney, which comprised the Stowupland end of the parish, Stowupland itself and Gipping. The chapel of St Mary served the inhabitants of the town itself.[1]

15th century to 18th century

By the 1460s the church had become St Peter and St Paul. St Mary’s, which stood to the south-east of St Peter’s was demolished in about 1546. The dedication of the parish church then became St Peter and St Mary. From about 1120 until the Dissolution in 1539, the Patrons and Rectors of the church were the Augustinian Abbey of St Osyth in St Osyth, Essex. This is the reason why, since 1120, the incumbent has been a vicar.[1]

After 1539 the Patrons were Lay Rectors who could earn an income from the major parish tithes. The upkeep of the chancel was the responsibility of the Rector and Patron. The parishioners were responsible for the upkeep of the remainder of the building, under the supervision of the churchwardens.[1]

Between 1628 and 1655 Thomas Young was vicar of St Peter and St Mary’s parish and his portrait hangs on the south wall of the church nave.[1]

After 1800

The church was also the parish church for Stowupland until 1843, when a new district church was built there. Gipping remained a chapel to Stowmarket until 1968 when it was linked with Old Newton. Burials continued at Stowmarket, however, as the churchyard at Gipping was never consecrated. The owners of Gipping had their own chapel and burial vault at the east end of the north aisle until 1891 – which is why all the Tyrell monuments are at Stowmarket.[1] The Tyrells owned Gipping Hall for about 450 years, being a branch of the family of Tyrell of Essex.”