St. Peter's Church
Thurston, County Suffolk

Thurston, like Rougham, was also listed in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Located in the Thedwastre Hundred, a grouping of 24 parishes, within county Suffolk. Thurston contained Thedwastre Hill believed to have been the meeting place for the Thedwastre Hundred court. Since medieval times it was an important manor where the courts dealt with many local matters.

For centuries Thurston consisted of farms with small cottages with life centered around the farm. The church of St. Peter serving the needs of the parishioners beginning circa 1330 to 1350 when the original nave, aisles and tower were built. The church was built in the Decorated architecture style common to the times. The present chancel was built in the late 1300's or early 1400's.

Before the Reformation the inside of St. Peter's Church would have been decorated with elaborate and colorful carvings and beautiful stained glass windows. Such grandeur was useful in teaching the poor peasants of the village as they could not read or write. In the mid-1500's after the Reformation the church felt there was less need for such colorful articles and they were removed and destroyed. The Puritans in 1643 brought further destruction to what remained of the former colorful church. In their zeal to remove from the church "superstitious images and inscriptions" much of the remaining stained glass was destroyed.

In 1857 several serious cracks were found in the high part of the tower. They were fixed by the summer of 1858 when additional fissures were noted between the tower and the celerestory walls. The tower was settling and beginning to lean causing the walls to bulge. In November, 1858 a London architect was contracted to study the church's current condition. His report, urging that immediate repairs be made, was deferred at a church meeting in April, 1859 and again in June. The architect wrote the parishioners urging that they take immediate action which they finally decided to do in March, 1860. The day before construction was to begin, March 18, 1860, shortly before midnight, a cracking noise and thundering crash was heard by the villagers. The tower in disrepair and neglect for so long had collapsed to the ground. Luckily the tower caved in on itself sparing damage to the other parts of the church. Several days later, on the 28th, the remaining part of the south arcade collapsed bringing down what remained of the nave and aisle roofs leaving only the three arches of the north arcade, the chancel, the porch and the aisle walls east of the porch. Under advice the remaining parts of the church, with the exception of the chancel, where dismantled and marked for restoration. On September 9, 1860, the foundation stone for the new church was laid at the base of the southern respond of the chancel arch. On September 9, 1861, the church was re-opened for worship.

We, as Drewry descendants, are indeed fortunate that two wonderful examples of medieval stained glass bearing the Drury Coat of Arms survived the Reformation, the Puritans and the collapse of the church. The Drury Coat of Arms can be found in two simple, yet beautiful, medieval stained glass windows in the North Aisle and in the ceiling boss above the Lady Chapel.

With the exception of St. Mary's in Bury St. Edmunds, all of the churches I visited were built in the same Decorated architecture style popular in the period from 1200 to 1500 A.D. Here we see the tower of St. Peter's at Thurston with several gravestones visible.

Before the invasion of the Normans in 1066 a portion of Thurston was given to Alvric, the Priest and, as documented through two charters, it passed to Matilda whose husband was Robert of Thurston. Robert's son became known as John Drury who lived in nearby Rougham and held lands in Thurston. It is believed that the Drury's connection with Thurston ended in the 14th century, however, it is known that Nicholas Drury, in his will dated December 28, 1445, asks that he be buried in the parish church at Thurston near the grave of his mother.

The windows in the North Aisle bearing the Arms of Drury in medieval stained glass believed to date from the 13th or 14th century. A view of the windows from outside.
A closer look at the two stained glass panels show that both Coat of Arms awarded the Drury family are represented. The window on the right clearly showing the Drury Arms with the Tau cross and the window on the left without the Tau cross.
If you were standing where the picture of the stained glass windows was taken (above) and looked immediately overhead, you would see the Drury Coat of Arms (with the Tau cross) painted in the ceiling boss above the Lady Chapel.

Main Pages

Back to First Page

Drewry History Home Page

Annie Bee's Home Page

Direct to Other Pages

St. Mary's Church, Bury St. Edmunds
Hawsted Church, Bury St. Edmunds
St. Mary's Church, Rougham
St. Peter & St. Paul's Church, Bardwell
Drury Lane, London
The Surprise

Last updated: November, 1999