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St Mary, Bocking



Click on the 'play' symbol in the second image to see all my photographs of this church as a slide show, then click on any image in the slideshow to see it large in a new page.

Alternatively, if you don't have flash enabled, you can go straight to the set for this church on flickr.

I was at Panfield, and near the church I saw a sign saying 'Wethersfield 4', pointing to one of my very favourite Essex churches in a lovely village in a sea of lovely villages with open churches - it was very tempting. But no, I had work to do.

Back into Braintree suburbia to Bocking, then. In medieval times Bocking was a separate town, and larger than Braintree, but today it merely forms the larger part of Braintree's northern suburbia. The church is located right in the northern tip of the parish.

Locked without a keyholder. A huge castellated flint church of the 15th Century, but retaining its 14th century chancel which is absolutely splendid, despite not being aisled. The nave has aisles and clerestories, and I couldn't help being reminded of St Mary at Hadleigh in Suffolk, with which this church is intimately connected - the Rector of Hadleigh is Dean of Bocking, and because both are historically peculiars within the Diocese of Canterbury, Rectors of Hadleigh are installed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Bocking church - probably because in the Middle Ages it meant he didn't have to travel all the way to Hadleigh ('How can I avoid heading into wild and dangerous Suffolk? I know, I'll make you Dean of Bocking too and install you there!').

The setting is pretty awful - the cleared, non-descript churchyard is entirely walled, and I noticed that there was a lock and chain on the gates, as if this was some kind of exercise yard. I looked through the windows, and generally made an exhibition of myself in the hope that someone would come and see what I was up to, and perhaps let me in, but nobody noticed. Given the nature of the area, I couldn't help thinking that this church must be prey to vandalism, and serves them right you might think.

Certainly, local people can feel no sense of ownership of this church. It would be an obscenity for a church like this to claim aid from charity grants or public funds for repair work, as the parish would merely be feathering their own nest in providing a grand building for their exclusive Sunday club. Let them pay for it themselves.

Suburbia seemed to roll on and on as I headed eastwards, but suddenly I reached the Halstead road and I was free of it, crossing into narrow, winding country lanes that began to climb and dip. It was idyllic after dull suburbia. The lanes threaded through little woodlands and copses, and then out into rolling meadows. There was birdsong all around, and hardly any cars. After a couple of miles I came to what appeared to be a three-way ford, and crossing it I climbed up and up into the pretty and surprisingly large village of Stisted, pronounced sty-sted.

Simon Knott, April 2014



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Norfolk churches - Suffolk churches