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There are many buildings have a silence about them, but they all have a ' cathedral-like' silence when being described. Nobody steps into a cathedral and whispers to their partner, " It's as quiet as a disused factory in here. "

This probably comes about because it takes a real effort of will to make any noise above a whisper in a church. They demand a respect unlike just about any other building. The U.K. has a lot of churches, more than we know what to do with. When there was the housing boom people converted a number into houses. At this time development companies were converting disused warehouses in docklands.

For over 1000 years church bells have rung out over Britain. In times of national rejoice/despair, or personal rejoice/despair, church bells could be heard. Failing that the bells would ring to remind the congregation to attend service.

"worth inspection".

If the village church had no bells people would raise money to get them installed. Now church bells ringing is a reason .for people to whine to the local council. A lot has changed.

The Church of England owns considerable quantities of England, they have large business interests, they also bring out the collection plate frequently. Our local church fell into the sea [twice], one of them being about half a mile out to sea as viewed from my window here.

Local legend has it that on stormy nights you can hear the bells tolling, unlikely as there were never any bells. Once in living memory the tide was low enough to reach the sea-weed strewn building. However, the sands were to treacherous for anyone to reach it. For a while we did not have a church but a local worthy gave a plot of land for the purpose of church building. His reward was to be the first person to be buried in the churchyard.

The continual fragmentation of the church means a person could almost walk from one end of this town to the other via the rooftops of our local churches. Church congregation levels have been in decline since anyone can remember, and recently this has brought about some quite startling innovations.

There are two buildings in Ipswich which superficially have nothing in common but have quite a number of links. The least of these being I walked past both of these buildings every day, never going in either and never seeing anyone in either.

The first on my journey from home was the old Churchmans buildings payments which had previously closed and the second was St. Margaret's church. Both then, large structures dedicated to their particular industry, both standing empty. Just as a personal note, I started collecting cigarette cards when I moved to Lowestoft, which also had a church called St. Margaret's and that is on card 30.

Sir William Churchman was a local man (local to Ipswich that is) and lived in a village just outside Woodbridge. He and his brother Alfred (MP to Woodbridge 1920-27 and later Lord Woodbridge) made a fortune out of the cigarette business. Sir William died in 1947 and when the last of his daughters died in 1993 a large mahogany desk was unlocked for the first time since the father's death. The contents included Christmas cards and correspondence going back to the 1920's.
Living in Melton they used to go to the local church.

Churchmans in 1912 they issued a set of 50 cards entitled ' East Suffolk Churches' this series is known as the black front series, to differentiate it from the 1917 series known as the sepia front series. Don't ask me why the set was reissued like that, I could not tell you.

It could have something to do with the fact Churchmans issued a set entitled ' West Suffolk Churches' in 1919. St. Margaret church, Ipswich appears on card 27 of the first series.

Churches are pretty central to us. Being baptized is considered good form and the village pond just is not good enough for that sort of thing, off to church we go.

Getting married in church is pretty good form to although it would seem Jerry Springer is overtaking that function in the US as everytime I chanel surf someone is getting married on that show. Dying is also fairly well covered by the church in the UK even if the graveyards are full to capacity in most instances.

Some roof funds are more succesful than others.

The whole business of the village fete would disappear without the local vicar coming out to open it and British comedy would never have got through the 1970's without a vicar with comic teeth.

Amazingly I was thinking about my recent trips to church (by recent I mean over the last ten years, organised religion is not my thing) it is actually four weddings and a funeral. No I do not stammer and vaguely leave sentences to hang in the air, no I did not met an American woman so full of life she confused me and no I have not been arrested for picking up women that go by the name of Divine.


The cards themselves are photographic in style. I have never been a total convert to the photographic process for cigarette cards, but I cannot imagine this set any other way. Card 21 is of Halesworth and standing in a huddled group next to a tree are 4 children in flat caps, and quite possibly more (on the sepia print you can see at least one more child, on the other side of the tree, the time of the photograph being 6.15pm by the church clock.).

Perhaps the photographer's children. Card 45 also has two children in the foreground, leaning on the railings, I wonder who they were and if they ever knew their moment of fame.

Apart from those appearances by the living everyone else that appears in the first series can be found under a gravestone.

Details from Card
A village four miles north-west of Southwold. Population 405. The Church of All Saints is Early English of flint and stone, of the time if Henry lll. It has a round embattled tower.

Graveyards are strange places, I seem to be almost the only person that finds a decaying country graveyard a depressing place to be. Trying to decipher the work of a long dead mason on a weathered forgotten grave can be nothing other than depressing. Also to discover the class system is alive and well in graveyards gives no hope.

Those children probably have a more permanent place in the picture now.

St Margarets: Ipswich

Let's change tack. The reverse of the cards are something of a mixed bag. Quite how card 10 can be included in the series when the compiler can only write 25 words on Brundish. 16 of these being of 5 letters or less. Others are better served by the text. When you start reading the cards many of the architectural features are " fine ", also there is an assumption the reader knows his architectural periods.

Not a sign of dumbing down in this set. On a good many of the cards was included population statistics which give an insight into life at the beginning of the 20th century, where large villages boasted populations of 800. Given the sparse nature of the populous then, it is remarkable that 400 years earlier these churches were built, no wonder they were quiet.

In reality the church was a very popular institution whose effect has been central to the historical development of this country and even if congregations are in decline the power of the church should not be forgotten for one moment.

A number of the cards mention Dowsing as someone who did considerable damage to churches but again accepts that the reader knows who this is.

Early English c1190-1250.
Decorated c1250-1360
Perpendicular c.1330-1550.

Now many of these smaller villages have been consumed by the larger towns to create urban sprawl where once there were communities, the world changes, not worse, not better, just different.

West Suffolk Churches

If you like the first set then there is no reason not to like the second, it completes rather than adds to the theme. The compiler gives the impression he expects the collector to go and visit the churches depicted, with many of the cards having the phrase "worth inspection".

Details from Card 18
. A market town SW of Ipswich. This church [St. Mary] is one of the finest in Suffolk. There are several brasses, notably one to Dr. Rowland Tayler, at one time rector of Hadleigh, who in Queen Mary's reign was burned to death for upholding the Protestant faith. The scene of is martyrdom is on Aldham Common, where a monument has been erected to his memory. The tower is partly Early English and partly Decorated and contains 8 bells.

By the time Churchmans had practiced on East Suffolk Churches the quantity of text for West Suffolk Churches had improved.

Card 18, Hadleigh, reminds us of what faith meant. The town itself has largely been bypassed by a long straight road. I traveled that road regularly for quite some time before I noted a stone monument about 7 feet high behind a farmers hedge. Eventually I took the time to stop and investigate. I leave it to the cigarette card to explain (see inset).

I read the weather-worn inscription on a cold grey winters morning with traffic thundering past. For just a moment I was transported back in time, then the traffic noise began again and I just wished I could have stopped them and made them see what I had seen for just that split second.