It would, perhaps, be incorrect to describe Stoven as a picturesque village, for here there is scarcely anything of the beauty emphasised by thatch and gables, of mellowed farmstead and splendid residence. Yet the habitations of Stoven appear to the eye as something even more appealing than the merely picturesque that is, they are clean-looking, well-built, and apparently comfortable enough places in which to live.

And, after all, there is a definite attraction about this, for quite a number of houses in the countryside-houses which please the eye of the photographer in search of a happy picture, houses with an instantaneous appeal to the artist, houses whose creeper-clad porches, whose twisted chimneys, whose old-world atmosphere too often disguise places built in the days of the past, when sanitary arrangements were unknown-or, at least unregarded where low, unhealthy rooms gave a feeling of crampness and confinement--quite a number of these apparently delightful-look places are only attractive from the outside, and those, perforce, who dwell beneath their leaky roofs can tell a different story.

Yet it would be altogether wrong to imagine that Stoven as a village is unappealing, for certainly there is an appeal here-the appeal of the quietude and the peace of the Suffolk countryside, with a fairly large green upon which on any Summer's evening the visitor may see the local youths discussing local news-or more probably, in these days of education, the latest bulletin from Westminster or the affairs of certain European countries. This, however, by the way, for at any rate Stoven, in its very smallness, cannot fail to interest anybody in search of the serene, pleasant things of life, whilst the friendly inn with the homely sounding name of the Cherry Tree, assists to emphasise the sober attractions of a picture in which there is nothing to jar.

It is close by the green, and within a stone's throw of the village hostelry and one or two cottages, that, the house of worship which has ministered to the spiritual needs of Stoven's inhabitants for over eight hundred years, is situated a church in a pleasant churchyard with many trees, their leaves now stirred by the gentle Summer breeze, which murmurs so softly and so refreshingly amidst districts such as this. But the church of St. Margaret at Stoven is something in the nature of a puzzle. Norman work is very much to the fore here-so much is apparent from even the most casual glance-and yet modern intrusions have played their part also, so that it seems difficult, indeed, to separate the ancient from the old, the workmanship of people who flourished in the long years ago, from the handiwork of those who performed their tasks almost within living memory.

The Church of St. Margaret at Steven, in fact, is a building of queer contradictions-and for this remark I hope I may be forgiven by those people who hasten to criticise without carefully studying the circumstances. For both an exterior and interior inspection of St. Margaret's suggests that here is a building raised only a short time ago, and yet closer inspection reveals the existence of items dating from the time of the Normans.

In justification of this it can be said that Stoven Church is built chiefly on the Norman plan, but whereas some of the Norman work is original, there is much more which only came into being during the middle of the last century. In fact, it is not too much to say that the edifice was practically rebuilt on that occasion, although, with the careful preservation of its ancient work and the no less careful copying of this same ancient work in various places, the atmosphere is definitely and unmistakably Norman, even although it requires no trained eye to distinguish which is original and which is the nineteenth-century copy.

The Church of St. Margaret at Steven possesses no porches and no aisles-which is tantamount to saying that it consists of chancel and nave only, with a tower at the West end. However, the South doorway is alone worth inspection, for here we find a beautiful specimen of the craftsmanship dating from the Norman period, a splendid and even magnificent affair which many buildings, much larger and more imposing generally, would be proud, indeed, to own.

Then again, there is no mistaking the fact that much of the North doorway is original-in fact, it is as well, perhaps, to describe it as Norman work which has been carefully and conscientiously repaired in comparatively recent years. But if one endeavours to discover anything of importance in the building apart from work connected with the Norman period, he has set himself a very difficult task, for, as I have conveyed, the whole building was practically rebuilt in that particular style, so that whether original or not the Norman type predominates.

There is a chancel arch here, very beautiful and very imposing; there is a tower arch, less attractive, undoubtedly, but in the round Norman shape; there is a rather curious octagonal font with a stalwart stem and eight noble pillars; there is a piscina in the usual position to the South of the chancel, and here again we find the Norman influence-so clear and so obvious, that nobody can pass it by without a second glance.

Then, again, windows show this Norman influence-and from all these particulars the reader will appreciate that the Church of St. Margaret at Stoven is a building somewhat different from the usual. Houses of worship retaining many Norman remains are to be discovered in several of our Suffolk villages. Religious edifices in which the Norman architecture predominates, although less rare than the first-mentioned, are in existence. But to find a structure in which the modern work-in this case virtual rebuilding-has been faithfully modelled on the old is in itself a certain achievement.

Naturally, the woodwork in St. Margaret's Church is definitely modern, but, even so, the seats and the pulpit are gracefully carved, so that they harmonise quite well with the general appearance and atmosphere of the building's interior. Unfortunately, however, not a monument relating to people who lived and flourished in the days of Stoven's past is in evidence, although there is record of a brass here-disappeared these many years-which referred to a certain Henry Keable, whose death occurred soon after Charles, of unfortunate memory, mounted the throne of England, as a prelude, in fact, to mounting the scaffold on that January morning in 1649.

Amongst the plate which the church of St. Margaret holds in safe keeping is a chalice dating from the golden days when Elizabeth was Queen, and a paten utilised as a cover. As for as the church is concerned, this in very early times was appropriated to Wangford Priory, and after the eighth Henry decided to dissolve the religious establishments we find the Duke of Norfolk owned the rectory.

To tell the story of the manor, or manors, of Stoven, is a matter of extreme difficulty, for the tale is so tangled, so confused, that only a brief mention is possible. In point of fact, at the time that the great survey of England, her people and their properties, was undertaken just twenty years after William the Conqueror had won for himself by force of arms the right to wear the English crown, there is no record of any manor being in existence at Stoven.

However, during the reign of Edward the Confessor we find that two holdings are described, and one of these was held by two freemen, known at Langabein and Gooday-and Gooday, of course, is a name well-known in Suffolk to-day. This particular property formed part of the lands of Roger Bigod at the time that the Domesday Survey was undertaken, whilst the other holding-held by four freemen In the days of the Confessor-was at the Survey owned by the great and influential Hugh de Montford, friend and confident of William the Conqueror himself, although, actually, three freemen seem to have been in possession.

But, according to all accounts, Roger Bigod was actually the lord of Stoven-at last he appears to have secured that privilege-although, as I have remarked, it is a difficult matter indeed to write with any degree of confidence as to the Stoven manors. Soon after the middle of the thirteenth century, however, we know that Sir Hugh de Jernegan held various lands in the village, for which lands he performed acts of homage to a certain Roger, the son of Peter Fitz Osbert.

This by no means proves that Sir Hugh de Jernegan actually held Stoven Manor, and it is therefore advisable to leave it at that. Afterwards, various names are mentioned in this connection, but there seems to be no definite statement as to the ownership of the manor of Stoven until some ninety years ago, when it certainly became the property of the Earl of Stradbroke.

Several charities exist in Stoven for the benefit of the poor, in which, however, Stoven resembles many another village of the county, which, amongst its past inhabitants, numbers one or more people of benevolent instincts who have left behind certain bequests in order to assist their less fortunate brethren, or, perhaps, to help keep in repair the sacred edifice in which they worshipped and found spiritual solace.

And even to-day, despite the rebuilding which has occurred in connection with Stoven Church, it is still possible to discover this spiritual solace, for in its very Norman aspect there is a certain atmosphere born of the past and emphasizing the quieter things of the past. Then, all around is the serenity of the countryside, the peace and the quietude ever associated with green grass and spreading trees, with homely cot and cosy inn, so that the traveller must feel tempted to seek the shelter of this little house of worship and in the doing find something of that peace which our village places of worship so liberally bestow.

Yeoman; Pocket Histories of Suffolk Parishes