Once in an area of great wealth, the demise of the mediaeval wool trade was indirectly the saving of the village, (as we know it today), since the locals were unable to afford the expense of upgrading their houses with the latest architectural fashions. The number of timber framed houses slowly declined over the years, (as did the population - from over 200 at its peak), to the point when the village was on the brink of extinction. By the 1960s, with the road no more than an unmade track, and no electricity or mains water supplies, (it still has no gas or main drains), Kettlebaston was barely standing. In the "Spotlight On The Suffolk Scene" article, of the Chronicle & Mercury in June 1949, it was noted that a great many houses were category five - derelict, and ready for demolition.
As the agricultural workers left the land in search of other jobs, (due to the increased mechanisation of farm work), other "outsiders" discovered the secluded beauty of the rural Suffolk countryside, and a new age dawned. The tiny workmen's cottages, (which once housed huge families - and some stock and chickens according to local accounts), were lovingly renovated and converted, and the village was reborn, (and went on to proudly win Babergh Best Kept Village, & runner up in the Suffolk Community Council Best Kept Village Competition, in 1989).
The village sign, (bearing two crossed sceptres, topped with doves), was erected to mark the coronation of George VI. It also commemorates that, in 1445, Henry VI granted the Manor of Kettlebaston to William de la Pole, (Marquis of Suffolk), in return for the service of carrying a golden sceptre at the coronation of all the future Kings of England, (and an ivory sceptre to carry at the coronation of Margaret of Anjou, and all future Queens). This amazing honour continued until Henry VIII resumed the manor, (and although it was later regranted, sadly, it was without the royal service).
The parish church of St. Mary the Virgin has Norman origins, and features a splendid font from around 1200 AD. It is recorded that it was then "built anew" in 1342, remaining largely unchanged until targeted by Protestant vandals in the 1540's. Today it features one of Suffolk's finest modern rood screens, (designed by Father Ernest Geldart, and decorated by Patrick Osborne, and Enid Chadwick), and a rare Sacred Heart altar upon a Stuart Holy Table. It now unfortunately lacks the small lead spire which once topped the tower.
Regarded as a place of pilgrimage to the followers of the Anglo-catholic movement from all over the UK, Kettlebaston was the liturgically highest of all Suffolk's Anglican churches. From 1930, (until his retirement in 1964), Reverend Father Harold Clear Butler said Roman Mass every day, and celebrated High Mass and Benediction on Sundays. He also removed state notices from the porch, and refused to keep registers, (or to recognise the office of the local Archdeacon of Sudbury)!
Still without an electricity supply, the church is illuminated entirely by oil lamps & candles. This creates a magical atmosphere, which can be enjoyed at various events and services throughout the year.
The village has no shop, (it did have once - of sorts), no school, (now the village hall - built in 1838), and no pub, (although many people mistakenly call at Church Farm believing it to be a hostelry, owing to the village sign immediately outside)!
In days of old, when the village pump was also located outside the farm, this amusing little verse was to be found across the road: