St Gregory’s Church at Rendlesham is a good place to consider some of the current evidence for the site of the Wuffing royal hall and church at Rendlesham. Bede tells us that the East Saxon king Swiðhelm was baptised there by St Cedd, with Rædwald’s nephew King Æþelwald standing as his godfather, around the year 660 (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 22).
Rendlesham from the west across the Deben valley (author’s photograph)
The work of Rupert Bruce-Mitford (“Saxon Rendlesham”), Norman Scarfe (The Suffolk Landscape, pp.89-90, 103) and the recent fieldwork survey by John Newman (“The Late Roman and Anglo-Saxon Settlement Patterns in the Sandlings of Suffolk”) suggests that King Æþelwald’s royal church may have been a former royal temple, perhaps even the famous temple of the two altars described by Bede in his account of the baptism of King Rædwald (Historia Ecclesiastica, II, 15).
St Gregory’s Church, Rendlesham, 6th March 2009 (author’s photograph)
A well-built royal temple is likely to have been consecrated for Christian use in line with the policy for the conversion of the English specified by St Gregory (Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, I, 30). It is possible that the present later medieval church of St Gregory stands on the site of this temple.
Further investigation is required, not just of the present parish bounds of Rendlesham, but of the area to the south, between Rendlesham and Sutton Hoo. For as Peter Warner has shown, this whole area may have been part of a single seventh-century royal estate, now subdivided between the parishes of Rendlesham, Bromeswell, and Eyke.
© Copyright Dr Sam Newton, Blotmonaþ AD 2000
Rupert Bruce-Mitford, “Saxon Rendlesham”, Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology [London 1974], pp.73-113.
John Newman, “The Late Roman and Anglo-Saxon Settlement Patterns in the Sandlings of Suffolk”, The Age of Sutton Hoo, ed. M.Carver [Boydell 1992], pp.36-38.
Norman Scarfe, The Suffolk Landscape [London 1972], pp.89-90, 103).
Peter Warner, The Origins of Suffolk [Manchester 1996], pp.115-118.
For more on Rendlesham Church see Simon’s Suffolk Churches’ page http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/rendlesham.htm