After leaving the church in Stowmarket, we made our way to Gipping Chapel which is tucked away in the middle of the landscape about three miles away. The first impression is quite odd as the tower at the road end was added later (16th – early 17th century) and is somewhat incongruous, but the rest of the building is fantastic and of late Perpendicular architecture and the walls are faced with flints and stones.
Although there was a chapel here in the fourteenth century, the present chapel was built as the private chapel of the Tyrells, who were Lords of the Manor in the area. The last male member of the Gipping Tyrells died in 1891.
It was Richard III’s friend and henchman, James Tyrell, who built it and it is believed that the nave and chancel were built around 1474 -80, after Sir James married Anne Arundell. There is an inscription over one of the door arches which translates as ‘Pray for Sir Jamys Tyrell: Dame Anne his wyf’. There are many other examples of emblems, motifs, initials and coats of arms to be found on the buttresses and elsewhere around the outside of the chapel.
Inside that chapel, above the font (which is fifteenth century), is a hatchment for Edmund Tyrell (d. 1799). These diamond shaped designs were hung outside the house of a deceased person for a while and then moved inside their church. The font itself is fifteenth century and has a step for the priest.
If you look up you can see the original timbers of the fifteenth century roof. Some of the benches are also fifteenth century and some are thought to have been brought here from the Tyrell Chapel in Stowmarket church. There are various carvings on the edges of a few of the benches.
The east window contains mediaeval glass, dating from James Tyrell’s son’s time, although they consist of fragments from several windows, put together in a jumbled way. You can see, however, the boar’s head and peacock feathers from the Tyrell crest and some fragments of inscriptions.
Outside, there are numerous carvings depicting coats of arms, mottoes and emblems, including the Tyrell knot.
The Chapel has a lovely atmosphere and is beautifully kept. It is still in use for services once a month and at special times.
On Saturday 26th March 2016, the first anniversary of the re-interment of Richard III, the Mid-Anglia branch of the Richard III Society met in Stowmarket to explore two places of worship associated with Sir James Tyrell and his family. Eight of us met for lunch and then made our way to the St Peter and St Mary’s Church, Stowmarket, which we had arranged to see at two o’clock. However, when we arrived the Church was completely locked up with no sign of anyone to show us around. Luckily there were several phone numbers on the board outside and one of the Church Wardens kindly offered to come straight away and let us in. Phew!
It was well worth the wait – the lady Church Warden informed us that the interior had only just been redecorated and it looked impressive. This was enhanced by the Easter decorations of fresh spring flowers. We were allowed to wander around and take photos and there were some lovely stained glass windows (although not from our period) and some of the pews had interesting carvings on them. Two had animals carved into them: a monkey and a lion. I found out from the guidebook that these mean ‘unredeemed sinfulness’ and ‘power and resurrection’ respectively.
The North Aisle was our point of greatest interest and was built in the 14th century and the door, windows and arched tomb recess date from then and the area is associated with the Tyrell family. The Tyrells were a local noble family and according to the guidebook, some of them were associated with various dramatic events in England’s history. We know that James Tyrell, close associate of Richard III, has been (probably erroneously) linked with the disappearance of the ‘princes’ in the Tower, but you may not know that William Rufus was shot and killed by an arrow which Walter Tyrell fired. Another Tyrell, Sir John, fought at the Battle of Agincourt, and Sir William Tyrell was killed during the Wars of the Roses.
Under the eastern arch there is a monument which is thought to belong to Margaret, wife of William Tyrell of Gipping Hall.
On the south side of the east wall is another Tyrell monument, for Dame Dorothy Forth, William Tyrell’s wife, who died in 1641. It depicts them holding hands resting on a skull and underneath are depictions of their three children ‘…who were taken away by God before their time’. The two who are lying on couches were only infants when they died and kneeling in between them is Penelope, who died before her mother. The monument was made by William after he was left alone, and he included himself because there was no-one left to put up a monument to him, a very sad situation.
On the north side of the east wall is a brass depicting Ann Tyrell, who died aged eight years and six months in 1638. The inscription praises her virtue.
Further along is a monument to Edmund Tyrell who died in 1799, comprising an urn and drapery.
On the north wall there is a monument to Margaret English (nee Tyrell) of Westminster who died in 1604. It was erected by Margaret herself, for herself, her brother and sister-in-law (Thomas and Mary) and their ten children.
The font dates from the Victorian period, but the cover includes a fifteenth century poppy head.
Another interesting item is the hatchment on the wall, lso associated with the Tyrells.