St Peter, Little Thurlow, Suffolk

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Feature Sets (2)


The villages of Great and Little Thurlow are in the Stour valley N of Haverhill; their churches only half a mile apart. St Peter's has an aisled nave with four-bay arcades and clerestories with oculi. The chancel has a N chapel with a two-bay arcade to the main vessel, built in 1621 to house the spectacular wall-tomb of Sir Stephen Soame (d.1619). The W tower is of two storeys with angle buttresses and dates from the 14thc. in its lower parts. Its bell openings and embattled parapet with flint chequer-work are Perpendicular. The tower is flint faced, as is the entire church except for the mortar-rendered clerestorey, the battlemented Soame chapel (of brick with mortar rendering) and the N porch (of brick). None of the fabric postdates the later 13thc. The church boasts three 13thc. piscinae; one in the chancel and one in each nave aisle, indicating that the aisles were built as chapels. The nave arcades and chancel arch are of c.1300, the tower arch is Perpendicular, N clerestory is 17thc. and the S 19thc. The only Romanesque feature is the font, carved with stylised foliage.


Great and Little Thurlow (7 carucates) were held by Edith, a free woman, in the time of Edward the Confessor; the manor including arable land, meadow and woodland, and supporting pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. It contained a church with 32 acres of land. In 1086 it had passed to the king. A smaller holding of 95 acres was in the hands of nine free men in 1086, the soke belonging to St Edmund's Abbey. Another carucate was held by 10 free men from Richard fitzGilbert; this also including a church with 29 acres, and finally Widard held 25 acres, also from Richard fitzGilbert, formerly held by two sokemen of Eadgifu. Little Thurlow is assumed to be Richard fitzGilbert's holding.

At the Dissolution, Little Thurlow was held by the Abbot of Bury St Edmund's. It had passed to Sir Stephen Soame by 1582, and the family continued to live at the hall until the line failed in 1889. In this period, the two manors of Great and Little Thurlow effectively became one, under Soame's lordship. The manor then passed to the Soame Jenyns (a collateral line), who sold the estate to Charles Foster Ryder, the father of Baroness Ryder of Warsaw (1923-2000). It is now part of the Vestey estate.

Stourhead benefice, i.e. Barnardiston, Great and Little Bradley, Great and Little Thurlow, Great and Little Wratting and Kedington.





The font is at the W end of the nave. The bowl is square with a slight chamfer on the upper rim and a deep one on the lower. There are slender engaged shafts at the angles, with tiny inverted cushion bases and cushion capitals with dished shields decorated with zigzag and roll neckings. Each face of the bowl has a rectangular field outlined by a groove containing a foliage motif in relief as follows:

E face: A large lily with triple-lobed lower terminals and pellets between the upper lobes. A damaged area at the tip of the central lobe indicates the loss of a third pellet. The lily is surrounded by a double-grooved ring, pointed at the top, and in the spandrels between this ring and the corners of the rectangular field are four more lilies, pointing towards the angles of the rectangle.

N face: From a central node rises a furled leaf, pointing upwards, and four long fluted leaves; two curving upwards and two downwards. These intersect a fluted loop that encircles the central motif, formed of a heart-shaped stem that emerges from the bottom of the central node and returns to it. Of the four intersecting stems, two cross over the encircling loop and two under it. They all terminate in simple leaves in the spandrels of the rectangular field. Interstices between the stems are decorated with pellets.

W face: A pair of heart-shaped stems are carved above and below a central pellet; the upper inverted and the lower upright, and both terminating in lilies where a point would be expected. from the lobes of each heart emerge fluted stems, four in all, growing towards the four corners of the rectangular field. Each terminates in a spiral and a flower.

S face: A small octagonal field in the centre encloses a Cross Patonce in relief.

The bowl is circular within and lined with lead. Its exterior is painted, but a mortar repair can be seen on the Eern rim. It stands on a pained square shaft with a double-chamfered base, both later.

ext. w. of bowl (E-W) 0.755 m
ext. w. of bowl (N-S) 0.745 m
h. of bowl 0.58 m
int. diam. of bowl 0.59 m
overall h. of font 1.24 m


The font is by the carvers of the unfinished and mutilated one at Hawkedon.


  • Anon, St Peter's Church Little Thurlow. A guide for visitors. Cambridge, und. (post 1997).

  • H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937.

  • D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 1 W Suffolk. Cambridge 1988, 143-44.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 339.

Exterior from NE
Exterior from SE
Exterior from NW
Interior to E


Site Location
Little Thurlow
National Grid Reference
TL 680 512 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Suffolk
now: Suffolk
medieval: North Elmham (c.950-1071), Thetford (1071-94), Norwich (from 1094)
now: St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
now: St Peter
medieval: St Peter (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
14 June 2005