Over the past few months, I have joined a number of Facebook groups for photos of the Suffolk countryside and church architecture. I've seen stunning photos, learnt about places I'd never even heard of before and am getting to know some new people.
Recently in the Suffolk churches group, a tour around Ickworth Church was advertised. I knew of Ickworth Church, which is situated in the grounds of Ickworth House, but had never really visited. So I got a couple of tickets and last night 13yo and I drove over at the end of the afternoon. It had been a beautiful, sunny day, almost summery, and it was lovely to walk down from the grand house to the church in the valley below.
We had a quick chat with the tour guide who turned out to be the church coordinator. The church was closed down in the eighties and fell into disrepair. In 2006 the Marquess of Bristol set up the Ickworth Church Conservation Trust with a view to restoring the church, as his ancestors are all buried in the vaults. The restoration started in 2012 and cost more than a million pounds. The church was reopened in 2013 and is now permitted to hold six services each year - the harvest festival, a Christmas carol service and 4 wedding blessings. They regularly hold other events, such as concerts, exhibitions and the tour we were about to do.
There were about 8 of us altogether, mostly volunteers and employees from the National Trust, which was really interesting as they knew quite a bit about the history of the family.
The building has several fascinating parts, such as a rare double piscina but not anywhere near the altar, a squint but so incredibly small that you can't imagine more than one person at the time being able to look through it, and a triple-decker pulpit. The reason the pulpit was so high became clear as we went up in the family pews - which were in the south aisle, completely separate - the only way you could see the priest from there, was if he was on the top deck!
We also had a look in the bell tower and were taken down to the vaults, where all the marquesses and earls, and their wives and children, are buried.
The tour took about an hour and both 13yo and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked it so much that I signed up to become a volunteer - it will be nice to spend a bit more time in a place with so much history.
We were told that the view from the top of the tower is stunning, but weren't allowed up there ourselves. As we walked back to the car, the first thing 13yo said to me was 'I want to go on that roof!' Well, with a bit of luck, they may just let him sometime!