Our Building and its History
We are very proud of our beautiful and historic building which dates back to the 1100’s. St Mary’s Church, Benhall, is one of the oldest churches in the Benefice, with additional multi-purpose space for meetings and after service gatherings with its modern fitted kitchen and toilet facilities.
Who Built St Mary’s?
St Mary’s Church, Benhall, was built by Ranulfe de Glanville, Chief Justiciar of England for Henry II from 1180 – 1189. It is Henry II and his queen, Eleanor, who are depicted at the head of the supporting pillars of the Norman arch over the south entrance door.
The tower and its bells
The tower, with its staircase and turret is also Norman style and houses six bells, number five dating back to 1533 and bearing the inscription: “In this chamber Gabriel now sound sweetly”. Bells two, three and four were hung in 1639 and the heaviest, number six, a tenor, in 1723. The treble, number one, was added in 1842. The first peal rung on the six bells was on December 8th, 1894 and took two hours, forty six minutes.
Memorials to the Duke family, Lords of the Manor 1611 – 1732, are prominent in the church. Edward Duke is depicted in brass just before the sanctuary steps, along with an effigy of his wife, Dorothy, and figures representing their ten sons and six daughters.
There is a brass of Ambrose Duke and his wife, Elizabeth covered by a platform in the sanctuary.
An imposing marble memorial on the north wall of the chancel, surmounted by the Black Prince plumes, commemorates the Duke family.
Windows and Stained Glass
The east window of clear glass filling the nave with simple, restful light and allowing a superb view of the trees and fields beyond, is headed by four small shields of the Duke family. The only other piece of stained glass is in a panel designed by the children of Benhall St Mary’s Church of England Primary School and depicts the story of the loaves and fishes. It was created in association with Kent Blaxhill in the late twentieth century.
The pulpit is thought to be Jacobean, dating back to the seventeenth century when it would have had three decks:- prayer desk, lectern and pulpit. It was altered in 1938 when the Lord of the Manor’s pews were removed and the choir stalls added.
The church was thoroughly repaired and refitted in 1842 when the north transept, vestry, schoolroom, box pews and balcony were added at the sole expense of the Lord of the Manor, Reverend Edmund Hollond.
The 19th Century font is octagonal in shape with eight different flowers carved on the upper portion.
In the 20th Century, the present organ was transported from St Audrey’s Hospital, Melton, and installed by the Church wardens and members of the congregation in the archway leading to the north transept after removal of some of the pews.
A kitchen area and WC was built in the area behind the organ in 2012 and part of the main church roof was repaired in 2015 with stainless steel replacing the lead.
The School Room
Our school room makes our church a fantastically flexible space. We can host training courses, hold Parochial Church Council meetings, Benefice meetings and host after service gatherings.
Get In Touch
Reverend Rachel Cornish: 01728 768136 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs Ann Boulter: 01728 831485
Carolyn Glennon: 01728 605761
Elaine Hawes: 07796 687252
St Mary's Church is part of the Alde River Benefice and can be found on:
Dead Mans Lane, Benhall, Suffolk IP17 1JL