Why the Church Interior was Refurbished
By 1812 the fabric of the Church was over five hundred years’ old and was in need of repairs, as shown in the records “The Walls and Buttresses on the North Side the Church to be repaired, …. The Chancel to be clayed round on the Outside, …. The Chancel Roof to be new laid, …. The Outside Walls to be painted repaired and whitewashed, .... The Inside Walls to be cleaned, mended and whitewashed, .... The Pews to be mended.” The layout of the pews in 1812, as shown below, was much more simple and the Pulpit was in the centre of the Church, with the Vestry close to the Chancel and Altar.
Even though those repairs were carried out, in 1814 it was still felt that the Church was “deeply in decay”, as shown on inscriptions on the walls of the Church, and so “Rev. Charles Francis having been the rector of Mildenhall …. for thirty-three years, …. considered to be a public spirited gentleman …. who was known to have a taste for history” decided that action was required and that the pews as shown above should be replaced. However, he felt that the refurbishment should be a joint effort and so the churchwardens and other patrons, twelve in all together with the rector raised a Petition and Proclamation on May 16, 1814 which declared the following:-
“It was agreed …. that the present Seats in the Parish Church of Mildenhall aforesaid being in General so old and decayed that they could not effectually be repaired it was desirable that the same be removed and New Seats or Pews erected in the Place thereof and …. agreed that a convenient Gallery should be Erected and built in the said Parish Church capable of containing nearly fifty Persons to sit stand and kneel in to hear divine Service and Sermons in the Church …. and built at the West End of the Nave or Middle Aisle of the said Church and of the Dimensions following (that is to say) Seventeen foot ten Inches Wide from Side to Side and fourteen foot deep from the front to the Back and from ten to fifteen foot in height from the Pavement of the said Church to the floor of the said Gallery. And that two Stair Cases be also built leading to the North and South Sides thereof each about two foot four Inches Wide.”
The Petition and Proclamation was endorsed by the rector, who wrote
We held our Vestry today, according to yesterday’s Notice, you the other did you have the Result; that is, the Signature of all the Occupiers of Land inhabiting this Parish, except one, who, poor Man, is at present dangerously ill; or he would have joined us heartily.
I will now thank you to get the Bishop’s Licence for our Improvement as soon as conveniently you can; with my sincere Regards & Compt. to yourself, your good Uncle, I am,”
The benefactor's generosity resulted in the refurbishment of the Church two hundred years ago, as the church records state –
“In the course of the last two years …. The inside of the Church has been entirely renewed. A new black and white stone pavement has been laid down, the walls scraped and plaistered with Roman cement. New massive doors of oak put up. Entire new pews of the finest oak with some carving throughout the Church erected, carved pulpit and reading desk, perfectly alike, of oak placed at the entrance into the chancel, a handsome gallery of oak added to the west end of the nave, a new and elegant font and lid given by John Long, Esq..... the whole expense very little if at all short of £2000.”
In 1816 the church authorities produced another layout of the new pew layout, to display the Church we know today:-
Plan of the church for the new pew layout in 1814