Discover Pakefield Church: A Historical Gem on the Suffolk Coast

January 31, 2024

Discover Pakefield Church: A Historical Gem on the Suffolk Coast

Nestled on the cliff overlooking the picturesque Suffolk coast, Pakefield Church, or All Saints and St. Margaret’s Church, stands as a living testament to the rich history and community spirit that defines the charming village of Pakefield. 

In this blog, we’ll delve into the historic roots of the church and its significance to Pakefield.

Unearthing the Past: Pakefield Church's Historical Journey

The foundations of the first Christian church in Pakefield likely predated Roman occupation.  A large ancient Sarcen Stone remains under the church.

The church we can see now dates back to the 12th century.  This Norman architectural masterpiece has weathered the tides of time, witnessing the evolution of Pakefield and its resilient community. 

Pakefield church | historic church on the Suffolk coast | Holiday cottages on the Suffolk coast

Most of the medieval splendor of Pakefield Church succumbed to Cromwell’s actions. The 10th-century Domesday Book mentioned a pair of semi-detached churches.

Built c1000, on the boundary of two manors. The Lords of the two manors, Pakefield Pyes and Rothenhale, both wished to build a church with the west end of the building over the sarsen stone. In doing so the congregation, when facing the Christian altar, had their backs to the ancient stone which was formerly used as an altar in heathen worship. An agreement between the local Lords was reached to set a dividing wall between the two churches over the sarsen stone.

The original porches of both churches remain today. The north side of today’s church is what was St. Margaret’s. Beyond the central arches lies All Saints church, marked by its 15th-century south porch. This peculiar arrangement reflects the unique history of Pakefield’s dual churches.

Both churches were extended and remained independent through the centuries. In 1411 Robert Graunt became the first rector to oversee both churches.  Graunt made efforts to join the churches by opening up arches in the adjoining wall. However, it was not until 1748 that common sense prevailed. The two churches were legally and permanently joined to become the Parish Church of All Saints and Saint Margaret.

Pakefield Church bombing | historic church on the Suffolk Coast | Dog friendly holiday homes on the Suffolk coast

Picture credit: Bob Collis

In 1930 major restoration of the medieval splendour of the church began. But just two years after completion, on the night of 21st April 1941, two incendiary bombs were dropped on the thatched roof with disastrous results. Fortunately, the walls remained fairly sound and intact, and the tower was not damaged, but the roof and most of the furnishings were either destroyed or rendered unusable, The church remained in this condition until the war was over.

Pakefield Church, however, became England’s first post-war rebuilt church, rededicated in 1950. The re-dedication was performed by the Bishop of Norwich on Sunday 29th January 1950.

Pakefield church walk on the Suffolk coast | Dog friendly holiday home

Today, Pakefield Church stands as a testament to faith, resilience, and the enduring spirit of a community’s place of worship.  The local community really engages with its church with weddings, christenings and funerals taking place alongside a programme of worship. 

The church also runs popular coffee mornings and events in the church hall. Probably the most popular annual event is the Walking Nativity which has become a local festive tradition. The church and the Pakefield community take the magic of Christmas to the streets of Pakefield. Local children and adults alike dress up in nativity costumes and walk a route through Pakefield finishing at the church for carols around the trees. 

Pakefield church sheep | Suffolk Coast | holiday cottages on the Suffolk coast

Pakefield church has an iconic position on the Suffolk coast over looking the beautiful Pakefield beach and bay. But more importantly it is the focal point of Pakefield. Whether you walk along the beach or along the cliff top, no walk is complete without passing this beautiful church. The resident sheep that keep the graveyard tidy have become somewhat of a local tourist attraction with their own Facebook page! At night the church creates a magical atmosphere with the cross of lights shining out as a beacon

I hope you enjoy our beautiful church as much as we do and perhaps stop and take a minute to marvel at all the history held within its walls. 

Pakefield church at night | Suffolk Coast historic church | self catering accommodation on the Suffolk coast