History

ST. MARGARET’S CHURCH WATTISFIELD, SUFFOLK

The church stands prominently on rising land in the centre of the village, not far from the A143, with picturesque old village houses around and a small green in front.

There has been a church on this site since before the time of the ‘Domesday’ Survey in 1086. The building reached its present shape in the 14th and 15th century.

The slender Tower is late 13thC. It has a beautiful ‘flushwork’ flint course at the base, a large Decorated belfry window and Perpendicular bell openings. At the south-west corner of the tower, on the quoin immediately above the plinth, are faint traces of a scratch dial. The line of an earlier roof shows on the East face of the tower.

The North Porch

The North porch is a 16thC oak structure. In wills dated 1533 Simon Burlingham, yeoman, asks to be buried in the Church porch on the north side of Wattisfield Church, and Elanore his wife asks to be buried in the Church porch "next unto my husband".

The South Porch

The more elaborate South porch has a knapped flint face and diagonal buttresses which are decorated with crowned ‘M’s and other monograms. Above the door is a terracotta shield containing the arms (three leopard’s faces) of the de la Poles, who owned Gyffords Manor in Wattisfield from 1389 until 1513. Also on the South porch is a stone sundial unusually angled out from the wall, with a text from Psalm 19. Inside the door are the remains of the stoup for holy water.

The Windows

All the windows of the nave and chancel are in the Perpendicular style. Most have benefited from considerable conservation work in recent years.

The Interior

The roof in both the Nave and the Chancel is of the scissors-braced design, that of the Nave retaining its medieval timbers, but that of the Chancel presumably dating from the restoration in 1872.

The stairs to the rood loft still exist near the south-east corner of the Nave. The doorway still has its hinge pins. In 1524 Marion Wasborne, widow, left in her will six shillings and eight pence "to making the roode loft". A few panels of the rood screen remain, parts made up into prayer desks and lectern, but one unattached panel of the upper tracery (on the wall in the South porch) has some remains of colour and is sufficient to show what a fine screen it must have been.

Pulpit

The stone pulpit dating from 1888 was presented by Alfred Youngman, then Lord of the Manor of Wattisfield, who also established a public Reading Room in a cottage opposite the Church in 1876.

 

The Chancel

In the Chancel can be seen the piscina (stone basin for washing the Communion cup and plate), flanked by a dropped-window-sill sedilia (stone seat for the priest and his assistants).

On the North wall of the Sanctuary is a small touchstone (smooth fine-grained black marble) panel in a plain alabaster frame. It commemorates John Osborne, who is buried under the sanctuary. He purchased the Manor of Wattisfield from Sir Robert Jermyn in 1592. He was the first resident Lord of the Manor, who built most of the present Wattisfield Hall in the 1590s. He died in 1619. On the South wall of the chancel is a memorial to Elizabeth Moody, who died in 1746. Elizabeth’s father, Robert Baker, and brother, Samuel were also buried in the church, as was her sister Anne who died a year after her. Each in turn succeeded to the Lordship of the Manor.

The stained glass in the East window dates from 1865, and is in memory of the Rev. William Hepworth, Curate here for forty years. It depicts Christ in the centre flanked by Moses and Elijah. Below are St. Margaret with the Apostles Peter and James. The South window in the Sanctuary was given by George Waddington in 1865.

The North window commemorates the Reverend George Coulcher, a former Rector who died in 1863. Mr. Coulcher’s widow also gave three-quarters of an acre of land for the new churchyard known as the Cemetery, which was opened in 1886. A stone Celtic cross in the Cemetery commemorates this gift. It was the Rev. George Coulcher who was responsible for the building of the Rectory in 1856 and of the Church School in 1862, the latter at a cost of £320, partly paid for by himself. At that time the population of the village was 615 - larger than it is now.

The stone pulpit dating from 1888 was presented by Alfred Youngman, then Lord of the Manor of Wattisfield, who also established a public Reading Room in a cottage opposite the Church in 1876. Of the latter only the War Memorial tablet remains.

The church has five bells, one of which was cast in 1584. The Church clock was presented by G.H. Waddington. The inner dial has the inscription ‘Nath. Randell, Ixworth, 1862’. But the clock was originally built in the 18th C. by a London manufacturer. The organ, built by Cedric Arnold of Thaxted, was donated from the local United Reformed chapel. A brass plaque inside the church commemorates those from the village who lost their lives in the two world wars.

The Church Registers of Baptisms and Marriages start from 1540. All except the current ones are stored in the Suffolk Record Office at Bury. As far as we know, all the 27 acres of Glebe land which was still in the church’s possession in 1887 has since been sold off. The church is known to have had at least one medieval guild (a society with a religious cum social purpose) named after St. Margaret. In 1523 William Trapett in his will left "the cow to the sustenation of the light burning before St Margaret in the church of Wattisfield". The Patron of the living of Wattisfield is now the Martyrs’ Memorial Trust.

As with all the fine historic churches of England, St. Margaret’s Wattisfield reflects the zeal and devotion of Christians through the centuries who lovingly built and maintained it for the worship of God.