Building record BUN 006 - Church of St Mary and remains of Benedictine nunnery

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Originally the site of a Saxon church recorded in Domesday book, then site of a Benedictine nunnery AD 1160-1537, the present church is probably the parochial nave to which a nun's choir belonged (see BUN 122 for Churchyard).


Grid reference Centred TM 336 897 (56m by 26m) (Centred on)
Map sheet TM38NW


Type and Period (6)

Full Description

Founded around 1160 by Roger de Glanville and the Countess Gundreda in honour of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Cross, for nuns of the Benedictine order. Includes list of endowments, commissions of enquiry and visitations. 1287 prioress and 15 nuns. 1493 prioress and 9 nuns. 1536 came under Act of suppression of smaller houses. Exact date of dissolution unknown. Deserted 1536. List of prioresses. Details of three seals (S1). Present church of St Mary is probably the parochial nave to which a nun's choir belonged, represented now by ruins to the E of the church. Most of the priory buildings were destroyed by fire in 1688. The arch of a former chapel on the S, a large window to the N and a wall in which is a doorway with C13 detail and shafted windows, can be seen to the E of the church. In St Mary's Street and Trinity Street are remains of the priory precinct flint walling (S3).
Remains of priory as described above (and in (S2)) at TM 3368 8973. The precinct wall extends from TM 3376 8973 to TM 3378 8970 in Trinity Street and TM 3367 8967 to TM 3368 8965 in St Mary's Street. The walling varies in height from 2.2m-3.7m. The whole of the remains are in good condition (S3).

August 2004 - Monitoring and photographic recording undertaken in advance of a programme of repairs including re-pointing the ruined walls adjoining the eastern side of the extant church's chancel wall. These walls were formerly part of the chapel of the Benedictine Nun's priory established on the site in 1183 (S4).

2012: Churches Conservation Trust 'Assessment of Significance': The present Church of St Mary consists of the parochial nave, aisles and tower of the priory church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Cross, originally built for an order of Benedictine nuns, founded about 1160 by Gundreda, wife of Sit Roger de Glanville. It replaced an earlier Saxon church on this site, one of the five churches recorded at Bungay in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The present nave, aisles, two story porch and tower were built during the 15th century. The tower, about 90ft high,sits at the west end of the south aisle and features include flint-and-stone flushwork panelling, a crowned 'M' in honour of the patron saint, and stone carving of frieze and parapets. After 1536, when the priory was closed as a result of the dissolution, the nun's quire and monastary buildings were left to ruin, whilst the nave and aisles were retained as the parish church. During the Reformation in the mid-16th century, much of the colour and carving, the great Rood, the statues and religious objects were removed. More iconoclasm was carried out in 1643-44. The curch was badly damaged, particularly the tower and south aisles, in 1688 by a fire in the town. Following the fire, major restoration work included the south aisle roof, completed in 1699, and a new alterpiece was installed in 1701 - the year the church reopened. By 1819 the vestry had been added and by 1827 the east window had been filled in with coats of arms in painted glass, the gift of the Duke of Norfolk. By 1830, the pulpit had been moved from its position on the south side of the nave to the centre of the church. Extensive repairs to the tower and roof were carried out in 1879, the galleries in the south aisle and west end and box pews were removed (S5).

(See BUN 101 for record of Medieval Burials)
(See BUN 122 for record of churchyard)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <R1> (No record type): Knowles, D. & Hadcock, R.N.. 1953. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales (1st ed). Knowles D & Hadcock R N, Med Religious Houses in Eng & Wales, 1953, 210.
  • <M1> (No record type): APs: NAU TM 330 896 1974, TM 335 895 1974.
  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: Victoria County History of Suffolk (Vol I 1911; Vol II 1907). VCH, Suffolk, 2, 1907, 81-83.
  • <S2> Bibliographic reference: Pevsner N & Radcliffe E. 1974. The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Pevsner N, Buildings of England Suffolk, second edition, 1974, 120-121.
  • <S3> Index: OS. OS Card. OS, card TM38NW16, 1968 (ill).
  • <S4> Unpublished document: Gardner, R.. 2004. Archaeological Monitoring (Photographic Recording), St Mary's Church, Bungay.
  • <S5> Unpublished document: The Churches Conservation trust. 2012. Assessment of Significance, The Church of St Mary, Bungay, Suffolk.

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Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Jan 17 2018 5:27PM

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