St Nicholas Church

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Rattlesden church stands high above the village, an attractive higgledy-piggledy place with a mix of plaster, timber frame and thatched houses.

The tiled witches hat spire above the rather solid square flint tower does look incongruous.

There is a tall battlemented nave with clerestory with lower chancel and side aisles which have very tall crocketed pinnacles at the corners. The south porch has a stone frontage and carved frieze round the top of the walls which extends along the side aisle.

The nave is 13thC, with side aisles and tower added later. The church was heavily restored by the Victorians who were responsible for the spire, which replaced an earlier spire that had collapsed.

The inside of the church is pure Victorian, but this is Victorian at its most sympathetic. The church is flooded with light from the plain glass windows in nave and side aisles.

After negotiating the step into the church, eyes are immediately drawn up the tall slender pillars with pointed arches to the glorious double hammer beam ceiling. This is a Victorian recreation of the original. The carved angels are based on a single angel which survived in the south aisle. There are more carved angels on the panels between the beams.

The chancel roof is much simpler. A panelled hammer beam but without the beams or the angels.

The rood screen still contains some 15thC woodwork and again has been carefully restored with carved panels at the bottom and really delicate tracery above. The Rood at the top with Christ Crucified with the Virgin Mary and St John is early 20thC.

The rood screen continues as a parclose round the two side chapels. The stairs to the rood screen are in the south wall , although these are kept locked. There is access across the south parclose and then up a staircase and onto the top of the rood itself.

Pews in the nave have been replaced by chairs. The choir stalls survive with their carve fronts and poppyheads. There is a simple altar at the end of the chancel with a stone reredos with a carving of the last supper beneath the stained glass window. On the south wall is a three seater sedilia. On the north wall is an aumbry cupboard with door.

On a wall is a memorial to 447th bomb grop based in the area during World War Two.

The Church is given 1* in Jenkin’s “England’s Thousand Best Churches”. I was in two minds whether to add it to the list as I often feel Victorian restorations don’t work. I’m glad I did. Elsewhere the church is described as “ in its restored state approximating more nearly than any in the county to the appearance of a late 15thC village church”.

The angel roof is glorious and during our trip around Suffolk we have seen a few. The rood screen is pretty good too, especially as it is possible to see access to the parclose and rood.

The church is open 10-dusk and there is parking outside. It is definitely worth a visit.

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