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Bramfield, Suffolk: Putting its Head above the Parapet or Standing and Being Counted by June Brereton
First, a little about where Bramfield is and why I have chosen the following three episodes in the very quiet and uneventful history of the parish of St Andrew’s near Halesworth. Bramfield is a small parish about 7 miles inland from the North Sea coast at Dunwich and to the west of the A12. It lies in a valley formed by a tributary of the Blyth, the church standing above the village on a spur of land. St Andrew’s is well known for several outstanding features. It has the only separate round tower in Suffolk as well as probably one of the country’s finest rood screens. This and a 15th century wall painting where a wooden cross was erected, ‘the good rood’, the Coke memorial by Nicholas Stone and
the sad ledger slab relating the tragic life of Bridgett Applewhaite bring visitors from far and wide. The church is mentioned in Domesday and was given to Blythburgh Priory by 1160 by the lord of the manor, an under tenant of the Earl of Richmond.
This is a drawing by Alfred Suckling from his History of Blything Hundred in 1845 and shows the church much as it was (with the exception of the17th century Town Houses by the tower) in the 14th century.The three episodes take
place in the mid sixteenth,
seventeenth and twentieth
centuries all concerning
clergymen who found the
people of Bramfield difficult,
namely Antony Wilkenson the
popish curate, Bartholomew
Allerton, the man from foreign
parts and the Rev. Cyril
Barker, a square peg in a
This article is not a condemnation of these clergy for they were all men of their time, but although not part of the secular structure, because of their important and powerful position in the parish or as we would view it, village society, they were (certainly in the first two cases and mistakenly in the third case) the people who most closely touched the lives of ordinary individuals. Generally speaking Bramfield has not tangled with authority, has behaved itself and has kept a low profile, but on three occasions that have come to my notice, through the maneuverings of the clergy assigned here, Bramfield people have chosen to stand their ground. Would we do it today? I wonder! There have been a few signs of people voting with their feet away from their parishes but as sanctions nowadays do not feature excommunication or burning at the stake the national press does not hear of it! The first case was during the 16th century. It shows us some of the effects of the religious changes then taking place, as were the problems arising from the sequestration of ministers in 1644, which was the foundation of the second brush with authority. The third case was really a storm in a teacup but caused an uproar locally and happened in 1939.
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