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Photographed May 2002  


  Memorials in villages around Bury  
Bradfield St. George
Cockfield (roadside)
Felsham & Gedding
Great Finborough
Great Whelnetham
Higham St. Mary's (roadside)
Thorpe Morieux

When writing Bloody Good (2004), I paired Bavarian memorials with those in Bury St. Edmunds, using the often-extravagant and overt religious imagery of the former to emphasize the restraint evident in the religious content of the latter. In Suffolk, the county in which Bury is located, there are over 900 World War I memorials; fewer than forty of them refer to the Middle Ages in some way, and of those over half are stainedglass windows, many of them featuring St. George (I am indebted to Gwyn Thomas for these statistics).

It was my lucky weekend, since it was June 1-2, 2002, the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II; as a result, many village churches were open that otherwise are closed. Thanks to Brigadier Denis Blomfield-Smith, Elizabeth Barber-Lomax, Sonia Halliday, Polly Buston, and Phoebe Whitton, for helping to organize my visit to Bury and the surroundings.

I visited fourteen villages and saw memorials in twelve of them. At five locations these memorials were very simple and made no link to the Middle Ages. The cross at Cockfield (below, right) echoes the Angel Hill cross in Bury; the names of dead from the second war are added on the second step of the cross. The Higham memorial (below, left) contains no religious imagery whatsoever but was put up by the parish.

  Cockfield         Higham St. Mary's

The most frequent means of establishing this link, found in eight of the twelve churches I saw, is the image of St. George. He appears in windows at churches listed below; those marked * are shown below.

* Great Whelnetham (paired with Joan of Arc);
* the church of St. Andrew in Great Finborough;
* Thorpe Morieux, where George is paired with St.Francis; and in Cavenham.
In St. Peter's Church, Ampton, a mosaic of St. George faces a mosaic of St. Christopher.
* In St. George's in Bradfield St. George a statue of the saint is paired with St. Alban in the reredos; at St. Mary's Church in Higham St.Mary;
* A three-light window at Rattlesden surrounds of St. George with the sacrifice of Isaac to the left and the story of David and Goliath on the right.

Great Whelnetham

The church was locked, so I have made do by reversing this image, taken from outside, so that the saints are seen in the order in which they appear from the inside. St. George is left of center in the image and Joan of Arc (you can just barely read her name, backwards now, below the image) to far right; to the left of George is David (with his slingshot, again, name just visible beneath him). (I can't read the inscriptions in the spaces beneath Joan and David.)

Bradfield St. George

The reredos is juxtaposed to a huge window showing the Crucifixion. St. George is on the left, St. Alban (an English martyr) on the right.

Great Finborough

The single-light memorial window features St. George in a helmet surmounted by a lion, holding a Crusader's cross standard, wearing a sword, and carrying a shield (again with the Crusader'scross). A fierce dragon, mouth agape (in death throes?) lies at his feet. The inscription, "They loved not their lives unto the death," is a quotation from the Book of Revelations often understood as a reference to martyrdom: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Revelation 12:11).Nearby is a memorial plaque that gives information about the two men and names their grandfather, the donor, grandfather of Clement Beckford Bevan, also remembered in the largewindow in the Bury cathedral.

There are four memorials in this church; the largest, easy to miss because it is so elaborately planted, is the rood screen.

At Thorpe Morieux, the balanced pairing of St. George and St. Francis:

The dedication to World War I figures appears opposite St. George beneath the figure of St. Christopher.
There is also a handsome memorial on the wall nearby:


Among the memorials I saw iconographic complexity reaches its peak in the three-light window at Rattlesden, with its remarkable conjunction of the sacrifice of Isaac, St. George, and David and Goliath. Erected in 1920, the work honors the 26 Rattlesden men who died durin the war; next to a brass plaque listing the 26 men rests another plaque listing three men who died in World War II. Inscriptions run beneath each of the side windows.
In the representation of the sacrifice of Isaac, an angel stays the hand of Abraham, clad in purple, who bends over Isaac's bowed body (Isaac wears red); the inscription reads: "It was counted unto him as righteousness," a quotation from St. Paul: "For Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him as righteousness" (Romans 4). Opposite, David, in a rough garment, holds a sling and faces Goliath, who (paradoxically) is dressed as a Roman knight. The inscription reads, "He will give you into our hands," a quotation from Samuel: "And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear, for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands" (17:47).

The memorial is accompanied by a book. The open page reads:Bruce, Thomas Harold. Joined 21st Lancers September 5th, 1914, and was transferred to 9th Lancers. Sent to France June 1916, and was invalided home September 1916. Returned to France January 1917. Invalided and kept in hospital until October 1917. Joined Warwickshires to go into firing line, wrote home on October 25th that he was out of the fight without a scratch, but had lost all his belongings. The next day, October 26th, he was reported "Missing."

Elsewhere, memorials are less complex. At St. Peter's Church in Felsham, Higham, and St. Mary's Church in Brettenham,there are two plaques listing the war dead. Even very large ones are no longer recognized as memorials. And if they get overlooked, you can be sure people rarely notice the very commonones like these.




For memorials in Bury, follow this link.