History of St Edmund

This Grade 1 early 15th century church lies at the north end of the village, surrounded by the lands of Assington Hall and accessed by a single track vehicular path. A church on this site was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, the earliest mention of a vicar was in 1349 and that of a dedication to St. Edmund in 1459. Originally gifted to the Boys family in 1190, the Corbets looked after it from  1316   until  1547  from  which time it was beneficently owned for over 300 years by the Gurdon family, who owned most of the village and farms until the estate was sold in 1938.

Leaving the entrance which has a wrought iron lantern set above the metal arch, the gravel path approaches the stone dressed flint church, and the tower can be seen to have gothic arched windows and angled buttresses. It has a crenellated parapet and an octagonal corner staircase turret. It was renovated in 1863 and is 75 feet high. The nave has a crenallated parapet, and all the roofing is clay peg tiles. The north and south aisles, as well as the chancel, are supported externally by angled buttresses. Windows are perpendicular gothic. The north vestry was added in 1860. The south Porch was built from money bequeathed in 1396 but the traceried windows had to be blocked up in the 1970’s due to crumbling masonry. The timber door, by Thomas Elliston, and costing £3.13s 0d in 1766, has fruit and birds in its carved surrounds.  The Chancel was falling down in 1827 and its rebuilding cost £3000 and took until 1868 for the final bill to be paid. At this time, some internal Gurdon monuments were damaged beyond repair, and the subsequent raising of the Victorian tiled floor covered over further memorial slabs, including one for Robert Taylboys and his wife, Letitia, the brass of which, dating to 1506, was placed on the floor of the main aisle.   Internally, the nave has a wooden roof of braced cambered beams with crown posts, supported by stone bosses of angels and roses.   There are rows of wooden Victorian pine pews, the south western group having been removed to ensure more space around the font near the south door. The font is a stone carved Victorian addition standing on an older octagonal plinth. Flooring is black and red check tiling, with the aisles partially covered in red carpeting.  Victorian brass candle holders on stands are placed alternately at the ends of pew rows. The furniture in the Chancel includes some wooden fifteenth century tracery on the east wall, underneath which can be seen the space from which the original attached altar table was stolen. More tracery can be seen on the front of the vicar’s pew and the choir stall, and on the front of the altar table, which has a carved figure of a reading monk at each end.

The wooden pulpit has tracery on its panels, and a seat was added in 1866. The free standing wooden lectern is in the shape of an eagle. There are no paintings; more than 40 were destroyed by William Dowsing, an iconoclast, in 1643. Along with desecration of the north aisle Chapel of the Holy Cross and the south aisle Lady Chapel, and chancel, he also removed the Great Cross on top of the wooden steeple that the tower then boasted. The church has some fine wall monuments to members of the Gurdon family, the earliest being in the Chancel, dedicated to John Gurdon who died in 1623, he and his wife, Amy Brampton, kneeling on the left, while his father, Robert, who brought the estate in 1547 and died in 1577, is kneeling with his wife, Rose Sexton, on the right. Underneath are surviving children, John and Elisabeth. The next oldest on the south wall of the nave is a large memorial to Brampton Gurdon who died in 1649, and his two wives, children and their spouses. The Gurdon family served as M.P.s and High Sheriffs of Suffolk and provided Assington with many vicars. Near the entrance is a monument to John Gurdon who died in 1869, and founded the local co-operative farming initiative, and Stoke & Long Melford Benevolent Society.