St Margaret's Church
Syleham Church is one of the typical round tower churches of the area but is unusual both in shape and in its delightful setting.
The church is situated on the bank of the River Waveney, a location which may have been chosen to facilitate baptism or, more likely, because of its key strategic position. The causeway which now snakes through woodland to the church once continued over the river into Norfolk and would have been an important route. A wooden cross, donated to commemorate the Millennium, marks the entrance to the causeway and snowdrops and daffodils adorn the lane in Spring.
An isolated sand lens, the site is unique in the Waveney Valley and has been designated a County Wildlife Site by Suffolk County Council. The churchyard is managed for wild flowers by volunteers.
REGULAR PATTERN OF SERVICES
First Sunday Messy Church for all in the benefice. Creative activities and games, story and song and a scrumptious tea. At Syleham Village Hall (IP21 4LT) at 4pm. Free and for everyone but children must bring an adult! More on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HoxneMC
Second Sunday No service, but we are welcome at other churches in the benefice, the nearest being Hoxne (11.15am Morning Prayer) or or Wingfield (11.15am Holy Communion)
Third Sunday Village Praise at 10am - a short and simple service followed by coffee and chat. This is now a joint service with the congregation of Wingfield Church.
Fourth Sunday Holy Communion at 9.30am (using Book of Common Prayer)
Tuesdays at noon There is usually someone available to share a brief time of prayer and reflection, although this is not always possible.
When there is a fifth Sunday in any month, we join with the Benefice. Details of current services are found on the notice board at the top of the church or can be obtained from the churchwarden Mrs Mary Lewis 01379 669258 contact
SEASONAL SERVICES are displayed as appropriate on church notice boards or information can be obtained from the churchwarden (as above).
The Rector arranges seasonal discussion groups for the benefice.
In February 2013, St Margaret’s became part of a newly created Benefice comprising the parishes of Athelington, Denham, Horham, Hoxne, Redlingfield, Syleham and Wingfield. Revd Michael Womack was instituted as Rector of these seven parishes at a joyful service led by Rt Revd Nigel Stock, then Bishop of the Diocese, at Hoxne Church on Wednesday 4th September 2013.
DEDICATION and DIOCESE
Originally dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland, a deeply religious woman and great-grandmother of Henry II who briefly visited Syleham in 1174, the church was re-dedicated to St Mary and has been officially St Mary’s for many years. However, local people always called it St Margaret’s and the Diocesan Bishop confirmed this dedication in 2008.
Until the Reformation, Syleham’s priests were appointed from Wingfield College and then by the Bishops of East Anglia. During the Commonwealth, Congregationalist Samuel Habergham was an influential Minister here and is buried in the chancel. Syleham is now in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich and forms part of Hoxne Deanery.
VISITING THE CHURCH
St Margaret's Church welcomes visitors and is open every day. We enjoy reading the comments in the visitors' book, where so many record their sense of the peace and holiness they find.
The church is about a mile from the higher part of the village and has the postcode IP21 4LN. Public transport is extremely limited and there are no scheduled stops close to the church.
Access is from the lower road through the village, running from Hoxne to Weybread, the entrance to the church lane being beside the large wooden millennium cross at the bottom of Wingfield Road - where there is a signpost. A notice board at the top of the lane gives some information on the church's history and also details of current church services and contacts, information which is repeated within the church porch. A bench in memory of a former parishioner stands here. The lane is approximately 400m long, with a reasonable surface. At the end of the lane is a good turning circle and limited parking. The PCC is currently looking into the provision of marked bays, including a dedicated accessible bay and drop-off point. Cars are advised not to park too close to the ditch.
There is a shingle path of approximately 40m from the car park gate (approx 2m wide) through the churchyard to the church; it has edging stones but is of sufficient width for a wheelchair or pram and has a very slight gradient. The churchyard has many old graves but has an undulating surface and is not suited to those with impaired mobility. The PCC is considering provision of a photograph album showing some of the tombstones.
There is a bench outside the porch in memory of former church members Marshall and Hilda Revell. The porch has easily opened steel gates with a barely perceptible step into the porch, which has a reasonable surface. Within the porch are benches and noticeboards with further information on church activities. There is a shallow step from the porch into the church and a small ramp can be found beside the bench on the west wall of the porch. The ancient oak door is opened by twisting a triangular shape handle 1.4m from floor level - it may require a little persuasion but, once it is operated, the door opens easily, opening away from the body if standing in the porch. The step down into the body of the church does not normally present difficulty to an assisted wheelchair or pram but the PCC is considering provision of a further ramp.
There is ample movement space once inside the door and the nave is wide enough for wheelchairs. There is a step to the chancel and the PCC is considering provision of a ramp for this position. Consideration is also being given to creating an album of photographs of the memorials in the chancel, which could be sited in the accessible area at the back of the church. At the back, there is a table with a visitors' book (please sign!) and also a small book for visitors' prayer requests. There is also a simple church guide leaflet (also available in large print) and in time this leaflet may be expanded to a fuller guide.
EXTERIOR OF CHURCH
The church is thought to date from Saxon times: it has fragments of Saxon limestone work at the NW angle of the nave whilst the lower courses of the tower, of local flint, are also Saxon. It is thought that the use of flint dictated the tower’s shape. Opinions vary as to whether the main part of the tower is Norman or 14th century, with a later top. Putlog holes, which supported scaffolding, are visible.
The tower contains three bells: there is a 15th century tenor bell by Braziers of Norwich with an inscription to Thomas à Becket, a bell by John Darbie dated 1676 and a 1708 bell by John Goldsmith of Redgrave and inscribed ‘Margaret’. Recent investment in a simple chiming mechanism has enabled all three to be rung once again from January 2009. The purchase was funded by donations from members of the village community and the PCC was very grateful for the generous response to the appeal.
Marks on the tower indicate that the nave was once thatched. There is a ground floor lancet window in its west wall and four small slit windows at belfry level, all thought to be 14th century. Although the nave and the chancel, both thought to be 13th century, today present an unusual external profile, the roofs were once level and were altered probably in medieval times, though some think Victorian. The chancel roof was repaired in 2006.
The south porch was built in 1450 by Alice de la Pole, grandaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer and wife of the Duke of Suffolk, of nearby Wingfield Castle. The arch bears the arms (west) of the de la Poles and (east) Chaucer and de Burghersh There is a holy water stoup to the east of the ancient door, which retains its 13th century furniture. As a reminder that the interior of the church was once rich in colour, tiny remnants of paint can be seen in the crevices of some of the carvings around the door.
A permanent pair of metal gates have recently been fitted to the porch in memory of the late Lt Col. John Leader.
The tower underwent substantial renovation during 2014/2015, with the work funded by English Heritage supported also by Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, Historic Churches Preservation Trust, Round Tower Churches Society, AllChurches Trust and fund-raising by the PCC.
The church is a member of the Round Tower Churches Society and of the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust
Immediately in view as one enters the church is the font, thought to be 14th century on an earlier base – suggested to be a very old font turned upside down. The wooden cover is dated 1667.
Standing against the north wall is a 13th century chest, banded with iron and with five locks. There are oil lamps in both the nave and the chancel.
The windows in the nave are Perpendicular (1350 -1550), whilst the two lancet windows in the north wall of the chancel are 13th century. The east window is Victorian, with Decorated tracery. If you look carefully at the window to the south of the sanctuary, there is a scratched signature .. an evocative reminder of the everyday.
The doorway to the turret staircase which gave access to the rood screen is blocked but can be seen beside the pulpit, which, like the attractive communion rail and the former altar table, is 17th century. There is a simple piscina in the south wall of the sanctuary.
There are a number of memorials in the chancel, including six slabs and two wall tablets (dating from 1638 to 1825) in memory of members of the Barry family, of Syleham Hall; brass inscriptions to William Fuller (died 1634) and his wife; an 18th century inscription to the Lambe sisters; and a 19th century memorial to Augustus Cooper, perpetual curate for 44 years.
Memorials in the nave include an 18th century slab to the memory of three brothers who all died in their late teens; a wall tablet in memory of Alfred Read of Monks Hall; and recent tablets in memory of Amoret Leader, wife of Colonel Leader of Monks Hall who himself died in February 2008, and of Katharine Anne Napier of Syleham Manor. Most recently, an earlier parchment list of names of those who died during the two World Wars has been replaced by a handsome memorial tablet in Portland stone with gold lettering: this was dedicated by the Rt Revd David Thomson, Acting Bishop of the Diocese, at a special service held on Remembrance Sunday 9th November 2014.
There is a framed list of incumbents from 1315 and a facsimile copy of Syleham’s Domesday Book entry.