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Ufford

Dedication : St Mary of the Assumption               Simon Jenkins: **                       Principal Features : Extraordinary bench-ends. Font cover.

Ufford is believed to date from the first half of c11. The lowest four feet of part of the north wall is about all that remains of that initial phase. The square ended chancel and south aisle were added in the early c13. The tower was begun in c14. Most of what we see today, however, was built between 1400 and 1500.

More importantly, however, this was when the extraordinary bench ends and the font cover were added, and it is the quality of the wood carving that brings the visitor to Ufford Church today.

The font cover is one of the finest in the country. It is some eighteen feet high and dates from about 1450. The colourful mass of pinnacles, crockets and finials is topped by the “pelican in her piety” pecking at her breast to feed her young with her own blood. The cover is in part telescopic with a counterweighting mechanism!

The bench ends are a thrilling odyssey through c15 church iconography and although some are lost or damaged they are in the main well-preserved, Each bench end has a poppyhead flanked by two figures.

The nave roof also dates from this period. There are five massive transverse tie beams which still have original paintwork, alternating with four hammer beams. The hammer beams are decorated with angels that were carved at Oberammergau (of Passion Play fame) to replace the originals that were

destroyed by the Puritans in 1644. They didn’t destroy the font cover, for which we must all be thankful. The nave and chancel roofs also bear original monograms of Jesus (IHS) and Mary (MR). There are also shields showing emblems of Christ’s passion.

There are three mediaeval misericords, All are in good condition, but it must be said that the designs are sedate by misericord standards, and even more so compared with the bench ends. The screen dates from the c15, but the upper part was sliced off by an c18 priest who was apparently irritated that he couldn;t be properly heard by the congregation. This is all the more unfortunate when you consider that it has survived when so many rood screens were destroyed during the Reformation.

Externally, the church is like so many in Suffolk faced with flint. The porch which dates from 1475 is very fine indeed with some lovely flushwork (patterns formed from alternating flint and dressed stone) that is also typical of Suffolk. Around the base is a plinth with flushwork shields. The spandrels above the door have rather weathered carvings of a dragon and what appears to be his hunter. The walls are very attractive with lovely clean lines, marred somewhat perhaps by the intrusive buttresses.

In truth, however, Ufford is not important architecturally and its undoubted quality is overshadowed by the wood carving for which it is renowned.

Looking towards the chancel. We can glimpse the glories of the chancel roof. Note the top beam of the rood screen remains forlornly in-situ following the depredations of the octogenarian priest.

Section of the nave roof with tie-beams alternating with hammer beams.

Far Left: The extraordinary font cover.                                                  Centre:  One of the lower panels of the font.                                       Above:   The Pelican in her Piety atop the font cover. Note the                       blood on her breast. In the background is one of the                          angel carvings.                                             

The Bench Ends

On the left is St Catherine with her wheel. On the right is St Margaret. This, generally accepted as the pick of the bench ends was displayed in the Tate Gallery’s “Gothic” exhibition. Wonderful hair!

What is this creature with his enormous tongue reaching the ground? He also seems to have wings and fetching curls!

Monkeys? I don’t think they can be meerkats....Note the face at the top of the “poppy head”.

Another fabulous beastie. This one, with his fashionable collar, appears to have lost his lower jaw. He has magnificent ears, to be sure!

This looks like some sort of fabulous dragon, seemingly with a garment of some sort wrapped around him from his beak-like mouth downwards.

These two appear to have shaggy coats. Is the one on the right having a wash?

This bearded chap is wearing a fetching bowler hat, which must have been quite a sensation at the time.

 “No, I said... and then she said...ooh, I said, go on...”

The lady in the “butterfly headdress”.

These two are presumably related. The shield on the poppy head has been damaged, sadly.

The right hand figure is shown in close up above.Note, however, the womderful figures on the poppy head. Jesters?

The Misericords

Misericords were the artistic playground of the mediaeval carver and the Ufford ones are very restrained - in stark contrast to the lunacy of the bench ends!

Shields showing symbols of Christ’s passion in the chancel roof. Monograms of Jesus and Mary are visible to the left.

One of the Oberammergau angels in the nave.

The lovely south porch.

Superb flushwork on the porch plinth.