Hacheston is fortunate to have its rood cross still in place above the rood beam; it is believed this is unusual. Hacheston also has part of what had been believed was its rood screen still in the church, located at the junction of the west and north walls of the nave behind the font. The History of All Saints Church booklet notes that "in 1883 the rood screen seems to have been removed to the back of the church (Davy saw it in its original place in 1817)". What was believed to be part of the rood screen with its painted images of saints was also believed to have been defaced by Dowsing's men when they visited the church on 1 October 1644.
The saints who who could still be identified were noted by the History booklet as "viewing from left to right: 3) St Thomas - part of a spear; 4) St Simon - fish; 5) St James the Great - pilgrim's shell on a wallet; 6) St John the Divine - part of a palm and a snake coming from a chalice; 7) St Jude - a boat; and 9) St James the Less - a fuller's bat". The photograph shows images 6 to 10. The fact that part of the rood screen survived could be related to the fact that the church is dedicated to 'All Saints'.
However, Hacheston's rood screen is not mentioned in a recent article by Wrapson et al. on Suffolk and Norfolk rood screens. This, together with the position of the former priest's door, which can be identified
by lines in the lime plasterwork inside the chancel and from the stone framework (now infilled) with scratched sundial above (now badly weathered and no longer visible) on the exterior south wall of the chancel, suggests that the chancel at Hacheston may have been extended at some point. The History booklet says that the wooden Saxon church probably had an apse and that when the church was transformed into stone at or before the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, "the chancel would, in all likelihood, have had a curved end - called an apse - and the roof would have been thatched and lower than our present one". A previous incumbent mentioned that evidence of curved foundations had been found at the east end of the church, so possibly the apse was "squared off" at some point to create the current east end of the chancel.
The Thirteenth Century - Early English section of the church History notes that: “During the latter part of the thirteenth century the existing chancel was lengthened, as in many parish churches, perhaps allowing for more elaborate services. Notice the signs of this on the outside walls of the chancel.” The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century section then notes: “Outside, the east end may have been rebuilt in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Notice the variety of materials used to build this wall, also the beautiful little medieval cross at the east end. Internally, the chancel walls seem to have been heightened.” Finally, the Nineteenth Century section says that “In 1879 restoration was begun in the chancel by Lady Huntingfield and church officers. The present choir stalls were added and in 1883 the rood screen seems to have been removed to the back of the church (Davy saw it in its original place in 1817). One step was added to the chancel from the pulpit, and sadly, the whole area was covered over with the tiles which still remain today. Sadly, because it appears that many interesting memorials were covered over or destroyed in the process.” It is believed some of the rood screen was used for part of the old choir stalls (possibly the 'original place' where Davy saw it in 1817) which was removed as part of the 1879 'restoration'. It is further believed that panels and carvings from the rood screen were moved to the front of the west gallery, where they can still be seen (the ones in the darker wood).
Also, remembering the floor level in the east end of the chancel (part of which is now the sanctuary, beyond the wooden altar rail) was raised in the late C19, it is possible the panels were part of an altarpiece or retable (from medieval Latin retrotabulum 'rear table'); i.e. religious images, typically portraying Christian saints, painted on a panel, rather than being part of a rood screen. The retable would have been mounted on the east wall above the stone altar set against the east wall of the chancel. This would explain the elaborate carving across the bottom of the panels and the fact the panels seem to stand on a series of feet. The best-known local example is the Thornham Parva Retable, which survived the Reformation by being removed from the church. It was found stored in a loft in 1927 at Thornham Hall and donated to Thornham Parva church by Lord Henniker.
Higher up, on either side of the east window, would have been the panels with the Ten Commandments (a wooden support that may have compensated for the fact that the chancel walls were thicker at the base and then decreased in width as the walls rose, can be seen in the upper NE corner). Also, either side of the retable would have been the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. Note in the photograph of the altar and the later panelwork behind it, the two outer panels have no decorative work on them but are left plain. The Ten Commandments and Apostles' Creed could have been painted in this area but have since been covered over when the chancel was remodelled in Victorian times.
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