In 1889 an application was made to Queen Victoria in Council at the Court of Windsor that the two benefices of Great and Little Linstead be united into one benefice at Little Linstead by reason of the decline in the population of the two parishes. The church at Linstead Magna continued to be used for until 1922 when owing to the dilapidated state of its nave a meeting of the committee representing the community recommended the whole building be demolished. The site of the church and the churchyard were to be vested in the Vicar and Churchwardens of Linstead Parva. The recommendation was placed before the Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and the request was acceded to. A contract was drawn up the following year for demolition of the church between Isaac Taylor, Vicar of Linsead Parva, and Robert Sillett, the Cratfield wheelwright.

How did it come about that a cultural icon, marking a gathering point for the emotions released by tens of generations, has been replaced by a few acres of oilseed rape? (DB * RD, December, 2006).

On reflection, this traumatic obliteration of God’s acre actually has a positive side for those who are cynical about the claims of farmers to be stewards of the countryside. The slightly greener crop fertilized by the bones of Linstead Magna’s former parishioners is an icon for all the bad things associated with agricultural mass production. Who can say why the first tractor driven plough sliced through this churchyard. Putting St Peter’s 1 rood and 35 perches under the plough could not have been a matter of economic survival. Who can say why it happened? Was it greed for land; the inconvenience of having to make two extra turns of the plough; a desire to remove a feature that attracted unwanted visitors, or simply a quick fix to tidy up the countryside? Whatever the reason there can be no doubt that there was insensitivity to universal values of history and sanctity. In this sense the effort to obliterate the churchyard has failed because this small patch of Suffolk will always be recognised as a space set aside for exercising the distinctive character of being human; the veneration and commemoration of the dead. Thus it is that we hallow the ground by imparting human life to the soil.

In its own small way, the fate of St Peter’s stands as testimony to the ever present forces of iconoclasm that recently brought worldwide condemnation upon the Taliban in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, people will continue to visit this spot to reflect upon their mortality through the lives of past Christian communicants who, thankfully, live on in the old parish books. The churchyard of Linstead Magna now has numinous power far above your average churchyard. It has gained a super-capacity to stimulate the poetic imagination because the meditations of visitors will have to dwell on thoughts about ‘countryside as factory’. This is epitomised in the gigantic powered implements that, with the steady march of the farmer’s year, thunder rhythmically over the remains of Selina Keable, only 2hrs old, Ellen Keable age 15 years, Ernest Albert King, age 1 year, and Annie Corona Maud King, also age 1 year, who were the last of a long line of parishioners to be buried here in the sunset years of their ancient church.

The rape of St Peter's


Drawing of Linsead Magna Church, by J. Stagell (Ipswich Record Office; date unknown)

Why do people visit hallowed ground?