There always appears to be a certain amount of attraction about the villages of Suffolk, even though, from both an historical and an archeological point of view, there are very few points of interest to record. For, in the places somewhat removed from a town of importance, one discovers that subtle atmosphere- almost indescribable and certainly unique which gives an impression of some weight, as though it forced before the senses the freshening atmosphere and pleasant air of the rural districts. And numbered amongst these parishes of our sea-washed county can be mentioned Cratfield, a village near Halesworth, which, despite the fact that it is a place considerably removed from the beaten track, and apparently well away from those doubtful amusements which present-day folk blindly interpret as the amenities of life, is yet a village with many pleasing characteristics, typifying, as it does, all that is best and cleanly in the confines of Suffolk.

A large spreading village-for here the church and the rest of the place are somewhat widely separated - Cratfield has yet a certain pleasurable interest for those to whom the casual and the ordinary, the prosaic and the dull, fail to create an impression. And, at least, the church of St. Mary can claim one distinction, and this no mean one. For it is the proud boast of the inhabitants that the religious edifice at Cratfield is situated on a higher plane than any other place of devotion in Suffolk, and, although this seems a somewhat decided statement to make, there appears to be every justification for the idea. Standing in the ancient churchyard, near where cowslips are blooming in all the freshness and velvety softness of a belated Spring, one gazes down upon a country rolling away into the distance, where fields show that faint tinge of green marking the first shooting of the harvest to come, and where the distant glimpse of a winding, dusty road seems a prelude in the imagination to the harvest of the future, when lumbering farm waggons, drawn by patient and glossy horses, pull their loads of golden corn, which in their small way contribute a welcoming quota to the granaries of the world. Close by the church is the rectory, and with its pleasant greenness and cool freshness it seems to symbolise the life of those to whom Cratfield- ay, and many another village of a similar kind-is the centre of all that is clean and homely.

St. Mary's is a building of plastered flint work, containing chancel, nave with clerestory, aisles, and embattled and pinnacled Western tower, having six bells-famous for many miles for their sweetness acid tone-and a clock. And this latter is an object which is well worthy of notice, for it is probably one of the most unique amongst the antiquities of our county. The works of this truly ancient and uncommon timepiece are situated in the ground floor of the tower, where a rough structure possessing the various pieces of mechanism necessary to urge the clock to fulfil the duties of many centuries still remains, mechanism which even in the more scientific realm of to-day it would be difficult to improve upon, for despite its rudeness, despite its almost uncouth appearance, despite the antique, medieval and yet romantic atmosphere which seems to force itself upon the personality of the visitor, this clock of a younger world than ours still does its work in all the pride of a wonderful old age, striking the hours when necessary, and performing the business in all respects for which it was originally intended.
Apart from this interesting old clock, how ever, it is probably the font which attracts the attention of the visitor, for here is, indeed, one of the most magnificent specimens of its kind. Standing upon two steps, both of which are panelled, there are statues about the pedestal, whilst the bowl itself shows the representation of the Seven Sacraments - a representation almost entirely limited to the churches of East Anglia, where, indeed, the finest fonts are known to exist.

St. Mary's is fortunate in possessing an excellent timber roof, and a good doorway to the tower, whilst there still remain traces of the ancient glass, some of which is in the chancel, which has a modern stained East window. The chancel is separated from the nave by an excellent arch, but the carved fourteenth century screen -a magnificent piece of work-has been removed to the West end, where several floorstones exist. One of these is to members of the Borrett family-husband wife and child who all died in 1698 and a verse on the stone is a sad, although at the same time a consoling, memorial to the event;

'The wife to her dead husband's arms does hast
That spite of death the nuptial tie might last
The child by instinct to her bosom flies
And here along with both in silence lies."


There are also several brasses, one of which bears the name of Robert Warner, whose death occurred in 1654, and another to William Fiske, gentleman, who died fourteen years before. Apart from these, there are various matrices with the brasses missing, for, although Cratfield Church contains a considerable amount of modern tiling, yet many of the original stones remain.

In the South aisle is a moral monument, taking the form of a scroll, to Thurgill Jillings who died in 1874, whilst in the North aisle is a memorial to Sarah, widow of Robert Mfynne, her death occurring in 1724. And in this connection it seems rather surprising that so few monuments exist in St. Mary's for, apart from the floorstones, there are little reminders of the past which enable one to place on paper the story and the record of those who formerly made the parish their home. In fact, this particular church, somewhat large though it appears, has suffered rather from various restorations, and, even although it is a place of magnificent proportions, there seems very little of any interest upon which to dilate. This, of course, applies strictly to its monuments-those somewhat misleading epitaphs of figures dead and gone-but, quite apart from this particular aspect, there are many interesting items well worth the inspection. Fo° instance, the chamber now used as a vestry was once the ancient guild chapel, and as a proof of this the altar step and aumbry still remain, giving it an air of peace born of the religious atmosphere of its past. The vestry also contains a massive and splendid chest made of oak, and banded with iron, whilst mighty locks and a bar seem to throw defiance in thee face of those misguided persons who would dare to probe its secrets. On this splendid relic of a stately past, when men were far less trusting than they are at the present, and when treasures were defended by sheer strength alone, is an inscription in the old English of our forefathers, which is extraordinarily distinct, considering its age. It records the fact that. "Roger Walsche gaf thys cheist. Praye for Hys Sowle to Jhu Creist," and in the very simplicity of its wording seems to issue a plea down the changing centuries for the donor of this particular piece of church furniture, almost as though he begged a favour that those who followed in his footsteps should remember his name and reverence it.

There is a carved oak pulpit restored in 1889, whilst there are some excellent benches with good carving, although no figures exist, but apart from these, two lecterns at the West end, invariably attract the eye. Built of oak, and of considerable age, they certainly appear to assist one's imagination to penetrate the long ago, for on one of these is a chain, to which is fastened a Bible-surely a somewhat suspicious action in a religious edifice, where, of all places in the world, honesty should scarce necessitate the forcing !

Before the Reformation-that movement which did so much to alter the character of our religious edifices-the patronage of St.mary's belonged to the Priory at St. Neots in Huntingdonshire, which explains the reason that names of so many vicars were connected with that particular county. Close by the church is the ancient Guildhall, erected in 1563, and now utilised as an almshouse, a building which scarcely seems to justify its age, for it appears to possess few of the characteristics of the period which saw its erection. Amongst the charities are the town estates of some £12 yearly, and an amount of £600-note worth more than half as much again-bequeathed by a Miss Leman in 1805, the interest on which is chiefly used for the support of the Church of England Sunday Schools at Cratfield, Brampton and Redisham. There is a large Congregational Chapel, erected in 1812- and attached to this a burial ground and a Sunday School.

The manor of Cratfield was held in the time of the Domesday by Ralph Baynard, but was afterwards divided into three parts, and in 1140 Maud de St. Liz, daughter of the Earl of Northampton, and wife of William de Abenni or Albini, gave a third of her manor in "Cratisfield" to the Priory of St. Neots, her son later presenting the church to the same people, mention of which has already been made. After the Dissolution this manor was granted by Edward, the sixth king of that name, to Thomas Sidney and Nicholas Haleswelle, but these soon
after selling to John Lany, or Lang, of Ipswich, the latter "piously and generously" conveyed the rectory-house with various other privileges to the vicar for ever. Two of this family were Recorders of Ipswich, and they lie buried in St. Margaret's and St. Nicholas' Churches of the county town. Another manor was the property of Robert de Tateshall in the days of Edward the First, and it later came into the hands of one of that mighty family, whose story has resounded throughout the ages, whose adventures have been sung by many a poet, whose episodes have enlivened the pages of an otherwise dull book-Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. Later still, it passed to John Eldred and John Verdon.

The third manor was held during the reign of Edward the Third by yet another famous noble, Thomas de Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, whose granddaughter strengthened the alliance of two already powerful families by marrying William de Ufford. Another owner was the Earl of Leicester, from whom it was purchased by Sir Joshua Van Neck, the ancestor of the present Lord Huntingfield, who owns the manor today.
As an example of the "long arm of the law" "which novelists are so fond of enlarging upon, it would be difficult to discover a more impressive case than the one which occurred at Cratfield over a hundred years ago. It was in 1793 that two inhabitants of Cratfield, Thomas Carter and his daughter, Elizabeth, were savagely done to death for the sake of what little valuables they possessed. The full details of this foul crime are too sordid and disgusting to enlarge upon, but suffice it to say that their skulls were smashed in by the blows of a hammer, and, although the guardians of the law and order-scarcely so efficient then as they are to-day!-hunted far and wide for their quarry, they had to confess themselves baffled, for the time being, at least. Yet, despite this setback, during which the wretched criminal, no doubt, thought the hue-and-cry had died down, and that he was safe enough from the consequences of his dastardly deed, the police had far from given up the chase, and, as one failed or relinquished his work, another took up the gauntlet. Thus it was that, in 1812 nineteen long years after the murder - a certain Edmund Thrower was brought to book and suffered the extreme penalty of the law at Ipswich.

Now Cratfield is a wide village, spreading to the four points of the compass, and a place purely rural in its appearance and in its general activities. But this is also true of many other parishes of Suffolk, parishes which, like Cratfield, tell little of the story of a wondrous past, and which are yet associated with some of the most momentous and illustrious names in the history of our race-names which recall, as nothing else can, the glory and the splendour, the power and the might of the, men of old, to whom the advancement of our tiny island has been the inspiration and the incentive, the ideal and the magnet, which has ever led their footsteps into the path of duty and of fame.

Yeoman May 18th 1928.