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