Redgrave Church Refurbishment, 1786
by Jean Sheehan

St. Mary's Church. Redgrave was declared redundant on April 1st 2004. This was far from the mind of Rowland Holt when he received the bill from Ralph Guest in 1786 for the refurbishment of the soft furnishings, amounting to 122.11.4 .

The church would have looked quite different to the way it looks today. The furnishings were mainly curtains and cushions, some of them being made for the pew. I think this may have been a special pew for the Lord of the Manor, which is no longer in existence. The fabrics used sound very luxurious, including green silk damask, velvet, lace and various other fabrics. The old curtains and cushions were taken to pieces and prepared for dying at a cost of four shillings and 6d and must have been re-used. The curtains were hung with bright rings and a pole, probably brass. The seats were covered with eleven yards of Wilton Carpet at five shillings and sixpence a yard. There were 8 pesses in the pew covered in damask. A pess was a Suffolk word for a hassock, or kneeler. The cushions were filled with goose feathers, and the pesses were probably filled with curled hair charged for in the bill.

A cloth was made for the communion table in green velvet trimmed with gold fringe, as were the cushions for the pulpit and desks. The three inch wide gold fringe cost twenty three shillings and sixpence a yard, totalling eleven pounds fifteen shillings, with nineteen and a half yards of narrow gold fringe at seven shillings a yard. There was also a rich double embroidered glory at a cost of eleven guineas. This was probably a frontal for the altar embroidered with the letters I.H.S. The painting of the Holy Family may have been used as the reredos at this time as it was there when David Elisha Davey visited the church in January, 1810 and made notes of the church. The large wooden board with the ten commandments and Moses and Aaron was used as a reredos previous to the painting.. The pulpit was probably a double or triple decker pulpit made of wood which would have had a desk for the clerk. I think the sounding board at the top is still lying in the church tower. A pair of silk curtains were made for 'the paintings', which were hung from a brass rod. The '2 neat carved and gilt frames containing 24ft at 3s' were probably for the same paintings. The bill does not always say what the various fabrics etc. were used for.

Matting was fitted to the gallery and stair which existed at the west end of the church. The church chests were lined in a green cloth. Various prices are included in the bill including thread and linings, and even the cost of packing cases to transport the finished products to the church.

The bill does not give an address for Ralph Guest, but he was charging himself out at three shillings and sixpence a day to come to Redgrave and four shillings for a horse. Presumably he was hiring the horse. The work was started at the end of January and completed in May. During March his employee spent nearly 3 weeks in Redgrave, his board and allowance for 6 days each week amounting to eight shillings. The horse cost ten shillings for 5 days, with its keep costing five shillings and elevenpence.

The furnishings were probably replaced when the Victorians had a major restoration around 1850. New pews were installed and it was probably at this time that the wooden pulpit was replaced by a stone one. Davey remarked in 1810 that until recently the nave had nothing in it and there were pews only in the aisles, but on church plans of 1849/1850 prior to reseating the aisle is filled with pews, but in a slightly different arrangement to the present ones.

Jean Sheehan, Redgrave Parish Magazine, March 2005.
With acknowledgements to Mr. Peter Holt-Wilson for permission to use the original bill for this article.

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