Cavendish Church, Suffolk

There can hardly be a more English scene than Cavendish seen from the village green. It looks like something invented, as if someone had been asked to paint what England looked like without every having visited. The phrase “chocolate box” has been applied on many occasions.

Unusually, for the grand churches of Suffolk, Cavendish does not owe its existence to the wool trade, rather to a more serendipitous turn of events. Sir John Cavendish had a son, his son had personally put to death Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants’ Revolt. The Revolt had a large number of sympathisers in Suffolk and Sir John Cavendish was lynched in 1381. He reached the door of the existing Cavendish Church – the village had already gained its name from him – and sought sanctuary, but to no avail. The mob carried him off to Bury St. Edmunds where the mob, led by Jack Straw, cut off his head. Ironically, he left a phenomenal bequest to the village whose occupants had killed him and from around 1382 a massive program of building work was begun on St. Mary’s Church.

The tower with its lantern top dates from immediately after the Bequest, the nave is slightly later (early 15th Century) and is thought to be the work of Reginald Ely who designed King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.

Inside the church is a splendid collection of monuments from the early Reformation period. Most prized is a 16th Century Flemish reredos with an elaborate frame designed by Sir Ninian Comper – just for once giving a high Victorian flourish rather than a heavy handed alteration.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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