St James's Nayland with St Mary's Wissington
A Brief History of St James's Church
The history of the church in
Nayland takes us back over at least six centuries. There is a document signed
at Nayland in 1303 in which Edward I proclaims the independence of his
"King's Free-Chapel of Nayland" from any jurisdiction by the Bishop
of Norwich. In 1333 Nayland was a chapel of ease to Stoke-by-Nayland, but it
was not until the end of the 14th century that the flourishing wool and cloth
trades brought importance and prosperity. It was around 1400 that the present
church was built. During the 14th and 15th centuries there are many records of
Nayland clothiers giving money and property to the church. Upheaval was created
at the time of Henry VIII. The churchwardens in 1548, hearing that
ecclesiastical visitation was to take place with the objective of removing
"Popish" images and plate from the churches, converted the goods into
money investing it in property. The Act of Uniformity under Elizabeth I
appointed Commissioners for, "reforming and repressing all religious
heresies and schisms". The sum of two shillings was paid for pulling down
the rood loft and a further shilling for destroying the altar.
During the Civil War (1642-1658) St James's Church fell into the hands of
the Parliamentarians and a record of 1643 states,
"Nayland Suffolk: We broke down 30 superstitious
pictures [this probably included stained glass] and gave
orders for taking down a cross from the steeple."
During this period engraved brasses were torn from gravestones, the
indentations in the stone work can be clearly seen. These were difficult times
but gradually, towards the beginning of the 18th century the importance of the
"religious question" subsided.
Nayland was still a chapel of ease for the benefit of older members of
the parish and it was not until 1747 that the first step towards ecclesiastical
independence from Stoke-by-Nayland was established. In that year, during the
ministry of the Rev. John White, the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty granted
the sum of £400 to be laid in the purchase of lands for the
"Perpetual Curacy of Nayland". In 1869 the title of the incumbent of
St James's changed from "Perpetual Curate" to "Vicar". When
the Rev. J. Hunnybun became the first to be called "Vicar of
Nayland". Since that time there have been thirteen vicars serving at St
James; their names are displayed on a board in the south aisle.
Mention must be made here of the
Rev. William Jones, Curate of St. James from 1777 to 1800. An eminent
author and musician, writer of "The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity
proved from Scripture"; and composer of "St Stephen" the
well known hymn-tune still in use today. You can listen to the hymn tune
here, being played
on the St. James organ by organist Alison Baker:
verse one -(170kB),
all verses -(1.1MB).
A prominent high-Anglican churchman of the day, the Rev. Jones was altogether an
outstanding country parson instrumental in erecting the church organ and
developing the choir.
St James's Church has played a central rôle in the life of the
village over the years and continues to do so today.
Written by R. B. Evans, 1990. Revised by J.
D Weston, 2003.
We hope that this brief tour will encourage you to visit our church
and ask you to thank God for all His love and goodness and to pray for all
those who have worshipped here over the centuries.
"We adore thee O Christ, and we bless Thee, both here and in
all Thy Churches
because by Thy Cross and Passion Thou has redeemed the
Prayer by St Francis of Assisi on entering a church.
"The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches"
by D. D.
Martin Renshaw, organ restorer.
"Nayland, Suffolk Town and Village"
by The Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society
Notes on "Nayland History"