English Churches - Suffolk

Church of King Charles the Martyr, Shelland


A Georgian church, very unlike Suffolk's wool churches.


The few scattered houses around the large village green are all that are left of a once larger settlement. The church is hidden by yew trees with churchyard round.

A church was built during the Commonwealth by Thomas Cropley for private family use and dedicated to King Charles the Martyr; one of only five churches in the country with this dedication. This didnít go down well with Parliament and Thomas was imprisoned and his land confiscated. He died in 1659, never witnessing the Restoration of the Monarchy. His body was interred in the nave. The church still holds a patronal service on 30th January every year to remember the beheading of Charles I.

Ownership of the church passed to the Ray family who rebuilt it in the C18th. Their coat of arms is above the outside of the east window. Although the church was passed to the diocese in the C20th, it still retains the feel of a private church.

Shelland Church

It is a rather plain plain building with plaster rendered nave and chancel with a small square bell turret at the west end and small north porch.

Inside it is a good example of a simple Georgian church with golden varnished box pews and pegs on the south wall above the box pews for the gentry to hang their wigs in hot weather.

Shelland Church

It has a splendid three decker pulpit.

Shelland Church

The lowest desk was used by the parish clerk who led the responses to the priestís invocations. The reading desk in the middle was used for the gospel. The pulpit at the top was for the sermon when the priest towered above his flock peaching hell fire and damnation.

Nave walls are painted in pale pink with a white barrel ceiling with red beams. The chancel is pale green with a blue ceiling.

The chancel is unusual as it has patterned carpet round the base of the walls. This continues behind the altar where there are open wooden arches forming a reredos. 

At the back of the church is the C11th font, the only survivor from the pre-Reformation church with its Georgian wood lid crowned with a pineapple, a sign of wealth and status.

Shelland Church

The Royal Coat of Arms is on the west wall.

The church still has its C19th barrel organ which plays 36 tunes and is still in use. In 2006 a new barrel was made with modern tunes, the first barrel to be pinned in the UK for 150 years. 

The church is open daily 10-3.30. There are notices everywhere in Shelland asking you not to park. Even the church car park was roped off. We felt we were being watched the whole time and visitors were not encouraged. We eventually parked on the triangular junction at the edge of the village.

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