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Church seeks help to solve ancient mystery

An isolated rural church at the centre of an extraordinary archaeological discovery now has a fresh problem to solve.

Two garter boards have hung on the west wall of St Andrew's Church at Ilketshall St Andrew, near Bungay, for as long as anyone can remember and were saved 2459347330c0761c2d03mfrom a bonfire during a recent clear out.

But despite painstaking conservation work on the circular wooden boards very little is known about them and now the church is appealing for people who may know about their history or function to get in touch.

It is not the first time the church has yielded some impressive secrets.

Parishioners and conservationists were stunned when extremely rare medieval wall paintings were discovered in the church in 2001 following a lightning strike.

The images have now been conserved under a £50,000 project made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund and visitors come from far and wide to view the colourful illustrations, which include a Wheel of Fortune on the south wall of the church painted in the early 14th century.

Catriona Hodge, a member of the parochial church council, said: “The garter boards have hung on the back wall - but when they were put there nobody knows. They have been there for as long as anyone can remember and nobody seems to know much about them.”

The garter boards were conserved by Sally Woodcock thanks to a grant of £1,000 from the Adnams Charity.

Mrs Hodge said: “We were having a turn out and the decision was either to put them on the bonfire or conserve them. They were black and grimy and full of woodworm, but we decided to conserve them. Adnams supported me and I am very grateful to them and the other charities that have helped us.”

Ms Woodcock also undertook conservation work on a royal coat of arms which hangs above the garter boards and is from the Stuart period.

Funds in excess of £3,500 for that work were found from the Barbara Whatmore Charitable Trust, the Scarfe Charitable Trust and the Council for the Care of Churches.

Mrs Hodge said that various suggestions had been made about the garter boards and their role.

She said that D.P Mortlock in his book Suffolk Churches mentions the garter boards and ascribes the arms to Thomas Howard who died in 1646.

He says he believes the boards may have been above a pew. Another suggestion is that the boards were made at the time of a funeral and were attached to the funeral carriage or were associated with the cortege.

Anyone who knows any more about the history or function of the garter boards is asked to contact churchwardens Rosemary Andrews on 01986 781380 or Cynthia Parry on 01986 781637.


By courtesy of the EDP24