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Withersfield History

There has been a church on this site in Withersfield for over 700 years. We continue to be an active and prayerful presence in the heart of the community today.

We do not know when a permanent building for Christian worship was first erected in Withersfield. But it is likely there was already a stone church here by the thirteenth century, as a rectory is documented in 1254. Moreover, the iron ring handle on the south door (pictured above) has been dated to that time.

Over the years the original building of chancel and nave, to which a side chapel on the south was added, has been altered and extended to suit the religious needs of the parishioners. The building we see now is largely of the late fifteenth century, consisting of nave and tower, constructed when East Anglia was a prosperous centre of the wool trade. The north aisle was added at the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century.

Later in the sixteenth century the building underwent changes when the church had to conform from catholic to protestant practice. The walls were white-washed, and the screen lost its loft. The remaining stained glass, paintings and statues were destroyed when William Dowsing, a commissioner during the Commonwealth, ordered their destruction. He reported in his diary that on a visit to Withersfield on 6th January 1643, 'we brake down a crucifix and sixty superstitious pictures and gave orders for the levelling of the steps in the chancel.'

This was followed by a period of partial neglect, perhaps because in the following centuries there was no squire living in the village. But by the nineteenth century this was changing. In 1867, when there was a squireson (a parson who was also the squire), the church was extensively remodelled, and a more regular plan was created by constructing the south aisle and porch, and rebuilding the chancel appropriate for the Church of England's liturgy. Essentially, this is how it remains today.

Taken from the Church Guide by Anne Bent, 2008.