Today’s walk began at the Thomas Gainsborough statue, just outside St. Peter’s church, where there was an event in progress, with a lot of stalls inside from various organisations. However, we entered this fifteenth century church, originally a chapel of relief to St. Gregory’s and now technically redundant. Built on the site of a twelfth century structure, it features a nice font and a very unusual bearded angel.
In walking to St. Gregory’s, we happened to pass Gainsborough’s House, which is surprisingly compact. Outside the church is a memorial to some USAF bomber crews. The main feature, however, is the preserved head of Simon “of Sudbury” (Theobald), who was beheaded by a mob in 1381, in the vestry. Simon had been Chancellor and was still Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. His original head, in a case, still has an ear attached and there is a reconstructed head by a University of Dundee team (just like Richard III), with a portait derived from it, nearby. The Theobald family were very wealthy and much of the present church was paid for by Simon and his parents. The font is far more ornate than that at St. Peter’s but there was evidence of some Dowsing in both venues.
On the outside, a Saxon brick pattern is clearly visible in part before later sections such as the tower feature a chessboard roll of flint so there was evidently a Saxon brick church on this site. The Walnut Tree Hospital is clearly visible from the gate (with the Talbot dog symbol on it) as is the site of Simon’s college, which lasted until the first Reformation.
The whole visit was conducted on a dry, mild morning, just like our walks last year. We are extremely grateful to Ian Fitzlyon of St. Gregory’s, a parish which now includes St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s of Chilton. Now we look forward to Annette Carson’s talk on 27 June, in Ipswich or Colchester, although several of us will be at various events in Leicester later this month.