Rattlesden nestles snugly in the steep little valley of the cutely-named River Rat. It's a place of beauty to which I feel I shall be returning some day. It's church stands on a little rise to the south of the river. In this part of Suffolk each church seems to have a different spire or tower, Rattlesden's is a neat but plain affair and is the result of rebuilding in the nineteenth century.
There's a pleasant, airy porch which seems to beckon you into the building.
In the bell-tower is a marvellous wrought-iron spiral staircase. The only way to get a photograph was to reach into the structure with the camera, point it upwards and hope for the best. I'm rather pleased with the result.
Turning from the tower into the body of the church you can see what a grand place it is. The chief glory is the wonderfully carved wooden rood screen, to the right of which can be seen the parclose screen which forms a little side chapel. The whole thing only dates from 1909-16 and was designed by George Halford Fellowes Prynne.
A rood screen should hold a representation of the crucifixion and this one has an especially fine one, quite beautifully carved.
It's by no means a strict replica of a medieval screen though the carving is based on a fragment of the original screen which survived. The whole structure is covered with fine carving.
As if this was not enough there is also a fine "angel roof", again a reconstruction as almost all such roofs are.
A couple of miles or so over the hill from Rattlesden stands Woolpit. It's one of those buildings that one can fall in love with straight away. The spire is an outrageous confection dating from 1850 and designed by Richard Phipson.
It has a porch which is even more ambitious than that at Rattlesden. In fact it almost looks too big for the building to which it is attached, almost forming a small tower.
Inside the church is every bit as grand as you might expect with large clerestory windows throwing light into the upper reaches of the nave and also lighting up the magnificent carved roof.
Now you understand why I didn't show you more photos of the roof at Rattlesden; I knew this one was still to come.
There are over one hundred angels as well as other figures and carving in this amazing roof. It was restored by Henry Ringham.
Henry Ringham (1806-1866) was the son of a Lincolnshire farm worker. In 1822 he moved to Ipswich and taught himself to read and write, draw and carve wood. In 1844 there was a competition to find carvers skilled enough to work on the newly built Houses Of Parliament. The work of Henry and six others was exhibited in London and, though he did not work on the parliament building other commissions poured in.
The first of these was to restore the hammerbeam roof and carved bench ends at Woolpit. By the time of his death he had worked on 160 churches. His work was characterised by his refusal to replace even small fragments of older carving which were still serviceable.
There's also an interesting rood screen at Woolpit; not as elaborate as that at Rattlesden but older, dating from at least 1750. As you can just about make out from the photo above it was once brightly painted.
The depiction of saints on the lower portion of the screen gives some idea of what once was.
Earlier I mentioned the bench-ends which were restored by Henry Ringham and there are just four examples above. These are on the ends of the pews and represent a menagerie of animals, both real and fanciful. Some of these are original fifteenth century work while others are exact copies made by Ringham. They are extremely picturesque and I'm sure that children love them but what on earth is their significance in a church?