Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet


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Suffolk Churches

The History of St Mary`s Church

The parish church of Bures stands on the Suffolk side of the river Stour, and serves the parishes of Bures St. Mary, in Suffolk, and Bures Hamlet, in Essex.
In Domesday the village is referred to as "Bura" or "Bure" ,and it is stated that there was a church with 18 acres of free land. 'The name "Bures" could be derived from either an Old English word "bur", meaning a cottage or bower, or from a Celtic word meaning a boundary, but, if the village was not named until after the Norman Conquest, it could have been called after a French village of the same name, of which there are several.

It is not known at what date the suffix "St. Mary" was added to the name, but there are references to the
village as "Bures Nostre Dame" in the 13th century, and as "Bures Seinte Marie" in the 14th. On some old maps and documents, the name of the village is spelled "Bewers" or "Bewres", and this is probably the nearest phonetic spelling to the local pronunciation.

It is usually assumed that the "St. Mary" suffix was added, because the church was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. This may or may not have been the case, but as will appear in the next paragraph there is considerable doubt on the point.



DEDICATION of St Mary`s Church
In a Charter dated 1075, Waleran Fitzranulph or Fitzralph, grants ". . . the church of St. Mary, which is mine in Buri" to Caen Abbey. If this "Buri" refers to our own village, as stated by the British Museum, and strengthened by the fact that the Fitzralphs owned land in the district, and have their coat of arms on the font, it is evidence that a church dedicated to St. Mary, existed in Bures in 1075, before Domesday.

If the earliest church on the site were dedicated to St. Mary, for some unknown reason, and at some unknown date, the dedication was changed to that of All Saints.
This may possibly have occurred when the original church was replaced by our present church in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, though it would have been unusual procedure.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, a number of testators specified that they were to be buried in the churchyard of "All Saints" church of Bures.
Some specified the churchyard of "All Saints of Bures St. Mary", indicating that, at that time, the suffix "St. Mary" bore no reference to the church, but only to the village.
It is, however, conceivable that, if the first church referred to in 1075, had been dedicated to St. Mary, the village may have retained the appellation "St. Mary" from that date. It is not known when or why, the
church later lost its dedication to All Saints, and assumed, or, possibly re-assumed its dedication to St. Mary.
But dedications tended to fall into disuse around the reigns of Edward 6th (1547-1553), and Elizabeth (1558-1603), and to be revived again under the influence of the religious revival in the early 18th century.
If the All Saints dedication were genuinely forgotten, after a period of about 200 years, it would be very natural to assume that, because the village was called Bures St. Mary, the church must have been dedicated to St. Mary.
But whether the present church has ever actually been so dedicated is a matter for speculation.

Extracted from booklet:- The Church of St Mary The Virgin Bures, Suffolk
Published 1990
Available at the Church Bookstall

Published 16/09/2019