Eye Church, Suffolk

One of several grandiose “wool churches” in Suffolk, Eye is not the largest but is built with a particularly pleasing striped stone effect.

It isn’t clear when the first church was constructed here, but no trace of anything earlier than the early parts of the 15th Century. The De La Pole family, one of the richest merchant families in Suffolk, put up the money for rebuilding the church and the dramatic and beautiful tower is purely from their rebuild. The tower alone took forty years to build and its windows go from pure Decorated-style at the bottom to early Perpendicular at the top. At the same time the church was enlarged eastwards, almost doubling in size.

Attached to the church is a guildhall, only accessible through the church itself, a more potent statement of the marriage of church and trade in Suffolk would be harder to find.

The interiors at Eye would once have been elaborate in the extreme, but the Reformation stripped out anything too gaudy and the decoration remained very plain until the Oxford Movement in the 1820s arrived at Eye and the interior was rebuilt in this period in a far more ornate fashion that had previously been done.

Eye Church is perhaps best appreciated from the top of Eye Castle where its sheer size over the surrounding houses can truly be seen.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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