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Famous church upholds historic tradition with red rose ceremony

PUBLISHED: 18:31 15 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:32 15 July 2020

John Nunn, chairman of Long Melford Parish Council, accepted the rose on behalf of the Clopton family of America. Picture: LONG MELFORD PARISH COUNCIL

John Nunn, chairman of Long Melford Parish Council, accepted the rose on behalf of the Clopton family of America. Picture: LONG MELFORD PARISH COUNCIL

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A tradition spanning 584 years has continued at a Suffolk church despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford. Picture: GEMMA JARVISHoly Trinity Church in Long Melford. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

The red rose ceremony honouring the father of renowned War of the Roses advocate John Clopton was held at Holy Trinity church in Long Melford, near Sudbury.

Regarded as one of the most impressive medieval churches in England, Holy Trinity church saw the annual ceremony fulfilled in a scaled down version of the tradition which began in 1436 AD.

Sir William Clopton granted the town of Hadleigh a guildhall and land for a market, for which the rent was set at one red rose to be laid at his tomb, presented by the Mayor of Hadleigh and is thought to be the oldest rent still paid anywhere in Britain.

Sir William Clopton was the father of John Clopton - one of many to be arrested for treason and held in The Tower of London during the War of the Roses - a series of civil wars that began in England in 1455.

Holy Trinity Church at Long Melford saw its annual red rose ceremony fulfilled in a scaled down version in a tradition which began in 1436 AD. Picture: LONG MELFORD PARISH COUNCILHoly Trinity Church at Long Melford saw its annual red rose ceremony fulfilled in a scaled down version in a tradition which began in 1436 AD. Picture: LONG MELFORD PARISH COUNCIL

John was the driving force behind the main rebuilding of the church after being acquitted - with renovations beginning around 1480. He died in 1497 - a year after seeing his beloved church completed.

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The Mayor of Hadleigh Helen Allan, along with Deputy Mayor Carolyn Cammack, presented the red rose to John Nunn, chairman of Long Melford Parish Council, who accepted it on behalf of the Clopton family of America and duly laid the rose on the tomb of Sir William Clopton.

Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford. Picture: GEMMA JARVISHoly Trinity Church in Long Melford. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

Long Melford’s Holy Trinity Church was named in Sir Simon Jenkins’ book ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’ published in 1999 and was featured regularly in Michael Wood’s BBC television history series Great British Story, filmed during 2011.

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Mr Nunn said: “It was sad that the visit of the Clopton family association of America could not happen again this year due to the pandemic.

“This usually brings up to 80 members of the Clopton family to Long Melford, however it was a privilege to represent them at the Clopton rose ceremony.

“I felt it was important to continue this tradition that has its roots as far back as 1436 in the village and with social distancing measures in place we managed to achieve this.”

Reverend Matthew Lawson said: “The Clopton rose ceremony maintains links between the people of Hadleigh and Long Melford. And with oursleves and the Clopton family of America whose ancestors helped to build the church.

“The ceremony also reminds us that acts of generosity can bear good fruit over many centuries.”

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