The following article appeared in the Ipswich Journal of 24th February 1894 accompanied by a sketch of the church from a photograph by Mr William Vick. It is reproduced as printed complete with original spellings and what appear to be misprints. Different fonts have been used here to emphasise quotes from other sources and footnotes added to provide further information.
OUR CHURCH COLUMN
Stretching itself on either side of the river Gipping, and, octopus like, throwing out its feelers into the parishes of Sproughton, Burstall, Flowton, Whitton, and All Saints, there lies the village of Bramford.
A very ancient place it is, for it is mentioned in the Suffolk Domesday Book; there it is spelt Brunfort, i.e., Stream-ford – Brune in Anglo-Saxon meaning a brook or stream, and Fort meaning ford.(1) In the village itself there are few traces of this antiquity, for the street is “long and unlovely”; the modern builder has been at work, and improved it into usefulness no doubt, but into ugliness. The old picturesque cottages have almost disappeared, though here and there may still be found an old house with quaint gable end.
A wide-spreading walnut tree, the growth of centuries, and formerly a conspicuous object on the right of the village street, now lives only in the inscription, “Walnut Tree Cottages.”
Even the village pump has not escaped the modern decorator, but perhaps our readers will think it has been made into a thing of beauty, for it is painted “true blue”!
But the pride of Bramford is the parish church, and long may it continue to be so! It is very beautiful, and seen from the Great Eastern Railway, standing in its ample churchyard apart from other buildings which might dwarf it, it looks like a little cathedral. It is a favourite subject for the artist, and the despair of the amateur, for (crede experto)(2) it is most difficult to draw it in correct proportion; many a sketch hidden in a portfolio, and the walls of the Fine Art Exhibition at Ipswich testify to this.
The present church has some Early English bits, but mainly it is of the Decorated and Perpendicular style of architecture. There must have been a church in very early times, for the names of the Vicars of Bramford are known from 1299 to the present time. What an evidence in miniature of the permanence and continuity of the Church! The Church of England is of no mushroom growth – it did not come up at night, nor will it perish in a night.
The hand of the destroyer was busy about Bramford Church in 1644, for in that year Dowsing visited the church by commission from the Earl of Manchester, and in his Puritanical zeal says that he took down and destroyed 841 superstitious pictures, etc. This seems a prodigious number, and can only be accounted for by supposition that the windows must have been filled with painted glass and the walls decorated with sacred pictures. Even now faint traces of colour may be seen on some of the pillars.
In the church there may be noticed a curious natural stone, upon which the north-east angle of the tower is built. On one of the western pillars, next the south aisle, is cut upon the stone in old English characters:-
Remember, ye pore,
The Scripture doth record,
What to them is geven
Is lent to the Lord.
A very rare feature in the church is the stone rood screen, divided into three arches; the only other instances of stone rood screens are at S. Mary, Capel-le-ferne; S. Mary, Westwell, Kent; and S. John Baptist, Baginton, Warwickshire.
We learn that Bramford Church was given to Battle Abbey by William Rufus; and that abbey retained the rectory and the patronage of the vicarage until the 33rd year of Henry VIII, when it was granted to Christ Church, Canterbury, in exchange. In the 22nd year of Edward I it was the lordship and demesne of Roger de Tiptoth. There was a manor in Bramford belonging to the Bishop of Ely as late as 1547, which was in the hands of Francis Colbourne in 1503.
On the battlements, on top of the porch, and on the north side of the church there are still left a number of rudely-carved figures of angels, sphinxes, griffins, and other uncouth objects, which we are astonished should have been allowed to remain, but we are thankful that Dowsing overlooked them.
The font is noticeable for its handsome, unique, carved wooden cover.
The following is a copy of an original letter, now extant, relative to the meetings of Quakers in the parish at the time of their prosecution:-
Suff. Whereas I am informed that a great number of persons called quakers are unlawfully assembled together at Bramford to the great . . . . . . . of his Majestie’s name to authorize you to disperse the said assemblie and to attach such persons as you shall finde to be heads or Ring-leaders of the same. And such persons to carry before some Justice of the Peace for this County to be dealt with according to the law, and hereof fail not.
Given under my hand and seale this XIth March, 1663.
To Gilbert Lindfield and Mr. Robert Clarke, or either of them.
The registers of the parish date back to the year 1553. They contain mention of some facts curious and interesting.
For instance, the following record is given by Anthony St. George, vicar, in 1661:
Memorandum. Now happened such a great and violent winde, the 18th of Februarye, 1661, that the parsonage Barns of Bramforde and alsoe many other lands in this town, fell downe by reason of the violence of the winde. Likewise the spire of the towne steple of Ipswich fell downe, and alsoe some strong oake trees were blown up by the rootes in my Lord of Herefordes Parke; this I was eye witness of, his oculis vidi;
This was entered in the Register booke by me the 24 of Februarye, 1661.
ANTH. St. GEORGE, Vicar
There is also mention of the great fire of London in the following terms:-
There happened a most sadd and dreadfull fire the 2nd September , 1666, in the Citie of London, which begunge the 2nd of September being Sundaye morning, and brunte in that violent manner that it could not be extinguished till Fridaye, after it consumed most part of the Citie, the suburbs . . . . . . the like to this fire I think was never known. This was entered into the Register booke the 12th September, 1666.
ANTH. St. GEORGE, Vicar.
This fire brunt and consumed
St. Paul’s Church, and most
Of the Churches of the Citie,
The like was never known.
In those days Vicars seem to have used their registers as records of event connected with domestic improvements – for instance, Mr. St. George says:-
A new pump set downe in the vicarage house, in the pump house, the old one being pulled up, being naught and antiquated, this 18th July, 1670.
Will. Goodwin, of Bramford, carpenter and pump-master, got it down at seven grots a foote, the tree is 12 foote long.
Shortly afterwards is this entry:-
John Wright who lived honestly and died piously, died the 8th November 1669, he was sonne in Lawe to the above-named Edmund Pett. . . . . . Vale vale vale mi Amice in diem resurrectionis.
Here is a curious “lusus naturae”(3):-
The widow Wellom, wife of old Richard, had two twins at birth, the one baptized Richard, the other Rachel, the second day of December, 1670.
There are four entries of deaths from the plague in 1666; among them is the following:-
Dorcas Woodwarde a maide that lived at our Angell died of the plague, and was buryed the 10th December 1666.
Here are other entries:-
Little Hannah Littleword kicked with Daniel Rabse’s horse, died of the blowe and was buried Aug 22, 1670. From sudden death Good Lord deliver us.
Old Mother Hilibrie was killed, having by accident got her house one fire, she was slaine by it, yet she was not burned to ashes, though all her household stuffe, even the brasse and pewter were consumed, yet the greatest part of her bodie remained a sad spectacle to behold, this was a Sunday about ten or eleventh of the clock morning, being the 21 of November 1675.
Old Mother Duck buryed the 21 Aprill, 1682.
Zachary Parmefoy, an. 1679, ancient man buryed the 26 March 1680.
Various entries in the registers show that names existing in the village now, were borne many years ago, for instance:-
Jolly (1580), Lawes (1593), Fiske (1661), Paine (1597), Fflory (1607), Southgate (1654), Squirrell (1632), Rivers (1654), Drane (1616), Packard (1691), Bumstead (1674), Bagley (1709).
There is a peal of six bells, one of them bearing the rhyming inscription:-
Miles made me 1553(4)
But we have taken up too much space already.
Let our readers judge for themselves, and, whether their delight is in the angler’s gentle craft, in hearing from the bridge
The mill dam rushing down with noise,
or in reproducing with the painter’s brush the reflection in the water of the delicate symmetry of tower, nave, and aisle, let them try if there is a pleasanter river walk within 21/2 miles of Ipswich than that by the side of the Gipping at Bramford.
(1). Now thought to be from “Ford where the broom grows” Old English – Broom-ford
(2). “Experto crede” essentially means “believe someone who has tried it”.
(3). Literally “whim of nature” or freak.
(4). The inscription on the five older bells is “Miles Graye made me 1632”.