Southwold Beach huts basking in the summer sunsine. As the days get longer now it can often be a relaxing experience exploring Souhwold or Walberswick beach in the early evening (and possibly renting a Beach Hut to fully explore this potential!).

All Change in Wenhaston

menu
All Change in Wenhaston

All Change in Wenhaston by Keith Johnceline

In the 1300 years since missionaries from Rome first brought christianity to East Anglia there have been many dramatic changes in religious organisation. The story of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne in 1509, his break with Rome in 1534, his assumption of the position of head of the English Church, and the transformation of local churchgoers from Roman Catholics to Protestants, is well known. The experience of the church of St. Peter and St Paul in Wenhaston reveals some of the consequences not only for the fabric of the church but also its ministers.

Some priests felt unable to change their religion. William Smith had been appointed vicar in 1497, and was replaced by Thomas Griggs on 8th March 1535. Following Henry VIII's order that all idolatrous figures connected with the Church of Rome should be destroyed, it was in his son Edward VI’s reign that the Doom, placed on the screen and filling the chancel arch, had its Rood destroyed and the painting whitewashed over – to prove a blessing in disguise.

The crowning in 1553 of the ardent Catholic, Mary, precipitated another local change and on 16th January 1554 William Clark was appointed Wenhaston priest. Elizabeth followed Mary in 1558 and, surprise, surprise, on 11th November 1559 there was another new priest, Thomas Conyers.

The next upset loomed during the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. In 1643 Dowsing’s men entered the church and broke the pictures in the windows and removed the top of the font and the organ. They also disfigured the pulpit and the font, destroyed the altar and removed the carved angels from the roof. The Doom remained undisturbed beneath its coat of whitewash.

The Puritans held very strict views on church services and Parliament produced Articles that ministers signed, instructing them of the form of service to be followed. Action was taken against those who did not comply. They were arraigned before the Suffolk Committee for Scandalous Ministers to face charges brought against them by various members of their congregation. Thomas Ambler, who had been appointed to Wenhaston in 1639, fell foul of these Articles. He was accused on nine counts and one accuser, John Poynting, featured in six of them. Ambler had continued, for example, to deliver the sacrament at the altar rails, to preach that forgiveness of sins did not belong to God but he himself could perform the deed, and, politically naive, at least, he prayed for the King's health and made critical speeches against Parliament. His activities outside church were also criticised. He was accused of frequenting the Halesworth ale-house of one Edmund Browne, and allowed the men of the village to ‘campe’ on the vicarage lawn on Sundays – that is, play a vigorous form of medieval football, so rough that some years later it was banned as people were getting killed. He was ejected from his living, worth £25 a year, and his wife Frances, with four children, was left with a pension of £5 a year.

William Raymond, vicar of Blyford, also attracted attention for his extra–mural activities. The Halesworth ale-house featured again (carousing with Thomas Ambler?) and once he was so drunk on his way home that he called at a house in Holton and terrified a servant girl. On another occasion he was so drunk at a baptism that he could not pronounce the words of the service; imbibing at an ale–house when the press gang arrived he took the side of a man facing impressment and drew a constable’s blood in a fight. He swore a great deal and one hostess counted eighteen blasphemies during one meal. All this, and playing cards, dice and bowls, was too much for the Committee. William Raymond nevertheless had many friends in the parish - apart from his conviviality they liked his services – and they arranged for him to conduct informal services at their homes, inviting friends along to form a congregation.

Priests today also face pressures, not least those resulting from the rearrangement of parishes into groups, but they are happily of a different kind from those endured by their predecessors.

Source:
Clive Holmes, The Suffolk Committee for Scandalous Ministers, 1644-46, Suffolk Records Society, 13 (1970).

Keith Johnceline, Wenhaston, March 2000.
Back to the History Index

Back to our Featured Reports

Some Favourite Websites For July 2018:

23 North ParadeLarge sea-front house at Southwold with private parking for up to four cars

With six bedrooms this traditional family house sleeps up to twelve plus a cot. Parking for four cars. Panoramic sea views from the front of the house, including from the first floor sitting room. Back garden with barbecue. WiFi. Up to two dogs accepted for extra charge.

Southwold Beach Hut Owners AssociationThe online home of the owners of Southwold's iconic beach huts

On this website are details of the Southwold Beach Hut Owners Association group as well as the latest news and information for prospective, new and existing members, owning a tiny slice of our wonderful Suffolk coastline.

Lamorna CottageAffordable three-bedroomed self-catering cottage in Reydon near Southwold

An end-terrace cottage offering accommodation for up to five in quiet residential street. Garden plus shed for cycles. Close to village shops. 15 minutes walk to the sea. Open fire in Living Room. Radio, board games, puzzles and books but no TV. Sorry, no pets.

Hetty’s Little Copy ShopA wide range of printing services - including 3D - plus passport photos and more

The Little Copy Shop is in Thoroughfare, Halesworth, and offers all sorts of useful services involving printing, laminating, scanning, binding and copying plus various photographic services including passport photos.

Bloom'sComfortable Bed and Breakfast accommodation close to Southwold

B&B accommodation just for one or two, in modern farmhouse on working farm close to Southwold. WiFi. Kingsize bed in room. Exclusive use of private adjacent spacious bathroom with jacuzzi bath. Cycle Route 31 passes farm drive. Sorry, no children or pets accepted.