It’s always quite difficult getting the village folk to come to church, said Margaret. “It’s their church in times of christenings and funerals but it’s quite hard encouraging them to come a lot of the time.” Typically, the Sunday service is attended by about 21 or 22 people.
As part of the original 22 Villages project Baptism records from 1813-1914 were transcribed by Ronnie Moran ©2000
Weddings, average two a year. The registers of burials and baptisms in the church were opened in 1813 and are still in use. They will one day go to the record office in Bury St Edmunds.
The folks who are allowed to be married at St Mary’s are mostly those who are resident in the village, explains Andrew. There are cases of special licences. And some people who have relatives in Santon Downham may quote their address as the place of residence provided they do reside there for some time before the wedding itself.
“We’ve had some wonderful weddings here,” said Andrew. No very glamourous ones, they’ve all been very local. In fact I should say that three of my children have been married in this church over the years, now living well away. But we’ve had others as well. In the year that one of ours was married, there were six weddings.” That was a record for the church, right back to the start of the register in 1813. “Weddings, lovely occasions,” he added. “The ladies come together, arrange flowers and it all looks quite magnificent.”
Two or three people are normally buried in Santon Downham in a year. The churchyard itself was extended in 1964 – the previous burial ground was getting quite full, but the new section which was consecrated in 1964 will take some years to fill.
There is sufficient space in the churchyard for the parish. “Folks from outside can’t automatically come and be buried here,” explained Andrew Kedar. They have to be either a member of the parish, or the Electoral Roll. “We still have a small piece of ground as yet untouched – wild scrub ground – which also belongs to the church, given to us by the Forestry Commission.”
As part of the original 22 Villages project Burial records from 1813 to 2000 were transcribed Ronnie & Arthur Moran ©2000