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St Mary’s Church- Bungay

Brilliant carvings and legendary beast.


The graceful and elegant tower of this grand church, with its tall pinnacles, stands 33.5 metres high. It is a landmark for miles around, and the focal point of this market town.

If you look up as you approach you can see intriguing carved heads under the parapet of the north aisle.

Built in the late 15th-century as part of the church of the Benedictine priory on this site, St Mary’s remained the parish church after the priory was closed by Henry VIII in 1536. Some remains of the priory buildings can still be seen in the churchyard to the east.

In 1688 the church was badly damaged in a fire which devastated the whole town, leading to major restoration work on the church, which was then restored again in Victorian times.

Inside, the church is flooded with light from the plain glass in the windows, especially the west window, which is exceptionally large and wide and has an amazing display of tracery design in its upper half.

The splendid carving on the roof bosses are well worth looking at including angels, a lion, two-headed eagles and a splendid bat.

Other finds to look out for include a wooden dole-cupboard near the entrance which was given by the curate in 1675. This is where bread was left for collection by the poor – it has religious worthies and a perky rat carved on it.

There is also a fine 17th-century carved Flemish panel of the Resurrection in the War Memorial Chapel, a gift of Sir H Rider Haggard (author of King Solomon’s Mines) who lived nearby.

St Mary’s is also famous for the visitation of the Black Dog of Bungay – it appeared during a terrifying storm in 1577 and attacked the congregation.

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