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History of St Mary's Church, Halesworth

A little guide to interesting points in St. Mary’s

Hard copy with pictures available in Church…

HALESUWORDA - from the Saxon, meaning a place between two rivers near woodland. A Church has been here since Saxon times.  Most of the building you see now dates from 1402. The FONT-  is very early 15c, supported by four woodwoses or wild men with their clubs, found on many East Anglian fonts. There are four shields, round bowel, ARGENTINE arms Lords of the manor, the TRINITY, Bury St. Edmunds abbey, the PASSION. When the Church was built in the 1090’s it had a round tower where the FONT stands.

The Church as it looks now is 14th & 15thC, with many additions and alterations, largely financed by the Argentine family, Lords of the manor 1130 to 1424. The flagstone next to the font is Charles Durban (March 17 – Apr 4 1769) infant brother of Sir Benjamin Durban (1777-1849) soldier and governor of the Cape Colony of South Africa. The city of Durban was named in his honour. Born in Halesworth, he died in Montréal, Quebec and is buried in Montréal Island ‘British Military Cemetery. Another Flagstone is that of  William Carey d.1686, Founder of the Alms house now the arts gallery, just south of the Church on steeple end road.

The bell tower was built in 1430, the first peal of 5 bells was from Bury St. Edmunds foundry hung in 1440. Now there are 8 bells including two from the original peal. The heaviest is 18cwt. Much bell ringing memorabilia is on the walls. Three beautiful glass windows make up the west window depicting – FAITH, HOPE & CHARITY. The magnificent east stained glass window of the Last Supper above the alter. In memory of GEORGE CROFT d. Jan 1889, a wealthy brewer whose brewery was just off the market place, signposted. He lived in No. 10 The Market Place. Note JUDAS grasping the common purse, his HALO is in BLACK.

DANE STONES – late 9th century from the Saxon Church which stood on this site at the time of the Norman Conquest 1066, depict hands grasping leafy boughs!


The LADY CHAPEL - Arch with arms of the Argentine family. Tombs of Sir William & Margaret Argentine (d.1427). Dame Margery’s manor is now the Bistro halfway down the thoroughfare. Note the bressumer between the two floors. The coat of arms now gone was the Argentine one. A recent addition (2006) is the altar frontal dedicated to the memory of Pam Smith and designed and made by Jacqui Boon.

The bronze altar cross and candlesticks (2007) are in memory of Revd Alan Deering and the Statue of Madonna & child by Peter Eugene Ball. Made from drift-wood found on Suffolk beaches. (c.2000) The VESTRY - used to be the ARGENTINE family chapel. Note the fine door to the vestry in memory of Thomas Clement d.1438 and his wife. Opposite is the priest’s door with the two piscinas are a reminder of our Catholic past. A broken wooden propeller 1917 RFC (Royal Flying Corps), details on plaque can be found in the north aisle. In the south wall a stained glass window in memory of Patrick Stead, (d.1869) who left money in his will which built the hospital 1881.

About ten paces from the south porch, slightly to the right of the tree stands a CAST IRON head marker to Wil Hopson died Dec 1816, very unusual! There is one also in Leiston Church cemetery about 1845 NEWSON, in better state of preservation.

The churchyard was closed for burial in 1855. The north porch was built by Sir William Argentine (d.1419) as thanks for his safe return from the Battle of Agincourt 1415. October 25th, St. Crispin’s Day. Standing outside the north porch, under the weather-vane is a MARINE TIMEBALL about mid 19c, used to signal to the barges that had come up the Blyth River to Halesworth to unload grain, when it was 12 noon so the barge men could figure out when the tide was in at Southwold for the return journey. Several round the coast of England.

The PCC are particularly appreciative of and grateful to John Willem Olink who has compiled the text for this ‘little church guide’.


The next generation is always in the front of our minds here at St. Mary’s. On Wednesdays at 10.45am ‘Church Mice’ appear. This group has great fun, with books, toys, instruments and prayer time. Why not bring your child(ren) along to find out more. All the staff are C.R.B cleared and have many years of experience working with children. ‘Open the book’ is a group of local people who go to our primary schools and put on assembles spreading the gospel and opening our children’s minds to worship and the love our God. 


St. Mary’s Church Hall is located close to the church. There is disabled access, but sadly no disabled toilet yet! Parking for about 20 cars (reserved parking for Clergy). The Hall is available for hire at competitive rates. Please phone Mr. Ron Goodson on 01985 872005 for bookings.

Telephone: 01986 875941 or 07752 275328.    
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