St Catherine is a typical Suffolk village church. Built in the 14th Century with ‘random flint’, it has a square tower with a 15th century ‘embattled top’.
The Church was restored in 1861. At that time the tower contained three bells, but two of these were damaged and were removed. Today only the tenor remains and this appears to be one of the oldest items surviving in the building, dating from the 15th century.
The Church restoration was important for the parishioners and was reported in the East Anglian Daily Times: “In the year 1862 the church, fabric was restored, the old fashioned high pews giving place to neat low benches. Landowners, parishioners and private friends contributed liberally of their own free will for the Church”
The Church was also mentioned in the Doomsday Book, or Petehaga as it was then spelt: “A piece of meadowland attached to the Church consisting of two and a half acres was let for the amount of seventy-five shillings a year, but owing to various protests this was afterwards reduced to forty-five shillings which even then was a considerable sum for that particular period.”
In the eighteenth century the Church also took on the role of looking after the poor and sheltered them in their old age. It was a meeting point for the villagers to gather and socialize and it was the heart of the community. The rector lived alongside the church in the rectory, where he and his daughters were heavily involved in the community.
There were various charities set up to help the villagers, the Metcalf Charity being one. “The Rev John Metcalf, a rector of Stonham Aspall by his will, dated 1612, directed his freehold and copyhold lands in Stonham, Pettaugh and Winston to be conveyed to and held by 16 inhabitants”. The rent from the properties was put aside to help with educational needs for the villagers.
There was also a school within a building at Stonham Aspall “where the children belonging to the parishes will be instructed in the rudiments of English reading writing and arithmetic.” The charity is still operating today, mainly dealing with music and educational scholarships.
For details of services at St Catherine, its churchwardens, and a Who’s Who of the Benefice of Debenham and Helmingham, visit: details
Also see: Suffolk Churches This is described by the author, Simon Knott, as “an independent guide to the Catholic and Anglican churches in the county of Suffolk”, but he then goes on to expand this simple description, stating that it became a travelogue of his journeys round the county, mostly on his bicycle, trying to visit every church in Suffolk — including Pettaugh -- see Visiting Suffolk Churches