Memories of St Lawrence's

This is the content of an interview with Gillian Carey (born 31/10/37) conducted at St Lawrence's Church, Old Bradwell on Wednesday 15th November 2000.

I was born in Bradwell village in 1937 and I was always brought up to the church. I joined the choir when I was eight years old. We had to come and sing in front of the choir mistress before we were allowed to come in to the choir. I stayed in the choir many years, right up until the time when I had tiny children of my own. Then later my own family joined the choir and my two children were Sunday school teachers. We don't have a choir as such any longer but I still belong to the singing group here.

This church is early 13th Century. The part of the church we are sitting in at the moment, on the South side, was the first part to be built and other parts were added on at a later stage. We had a family Baily who were important in the church and they did lots and lots of things to make the church a lovely place. There is a vault in the church yard which is the Baily vault (pictured below right).

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I am led to believe that the church was connected with the church Bradwell Priory. Every so often there was a pilgrimage of healing, during which the monks processed to this church and then on to a very old church in Stanton Low which was somewhere near to Stantonbury.

The church is dedicated to St Lawrence who gave his life for the Lord by being burned on a stake. We now have an altar cover in Chancel Hall with flames on to depict the fire upon which St Lawrence died.

This is a wonderful historical church but its also a church with a future. We still have the traditional early morning service but we also have another dedicated to the young ones where our vicar, Andy Jowett, gives a nice message to the children as they move out to the Sunday school. He then goes on to give the same message to us. We like to think we are a welcoming church. Most people come back and say that we are. Even at funerals when I am a verger I have been told what a lovely sense of intimacy they have found in this church.

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There are a couple of stained glass windows within the church including one to the Baily family which I mentioned early. There's also a window which is very special to me because it was dedicated to William James Pateman. This man use to blow the old pipe organ that stood on the south side of the church and when we came to our choir practice he would sit beside us pumping the handle up and down to power the organ. Often in service times William would fall off to sleep and someone would have to nudge him before we would be able to sing the next hymn. He was a lovely man and a very special friend to me. He used to really encourage the children in the choir to sing solos. He would offer them five shillings to sing which was a lot of money in those days, so that is a very precious memory to me. The gentleman who made this window used to live in the village and was called Mr Stammers. His niece is now a regular member of the church and she now plays our new organ for us which means we have a direct connection with the original blower.
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Photo (below) showing the altar cover in Chancel Hall with flames depicting the fire upon which St Lawrence died.
We still have a full peal and we've got any number of bell ringers . Some come from other churches to ring on Sundays or special occasions. The bells are now up on a balcony. This change was part of the second phase of the restoration of the church. The bells use to be at the bottom of the belfry, just where you come in through the extension door. Years ago the ringers use be mainly old people. When I think back I can see a few of the old faces and they were truly dedicated people. The bells are still giving a joyful sound every Sunday and every Wednesday night for choir practice. There are still one of the original bells in the south aisle of the church. We decided to keep it instead of sending it to a museum or something. We thought it would be nice to hang it in the south aisle for all to see. This was one of the original 13th Century bells and it had a very large crack in it, so that when they rang it it gave an odd sound, but now the whole peal of bells rings out sweetly and calls people to church every week.
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