The history of the church of St Andrew at Walberswick tells us a great deal about the vicissitudes of life on the Suffolk coast across the centuries. The building of the present church was begun in 1696 and is set amid ruins that date back to the 15th century.
Walberswick was once a thriving port, exporting fish, cheese, corn, bacon and timber. In 1493 the prosperous community built an appropriately imposing church, described as one of the finest in the country, complete with thirty-six clerestory windows and five bells. The tower had been completed previously, in 1426, to compete with the grandeur of those at neighbouring Blythburgh, Tunstall and Halesworth!
But the good days were not to last. Henry VIII laid claim to the tithe income, the Puritans ruthlessly smashed the coloured glass windows and removed the brasses and in 1585 the great bell had to be sold to meet debts. Coastal erosion silted up the port and seriously damaged the shipping trade. As a result of these adverse circumstances and declining income the church fell into decay. Ultimately, in the 17th century, the roof timbers, lead and th remaining three bells were sold and the proceeds were used to build a smaller, modest church in what had been the south aisle of the original.
St Andrew’s is a Grade I listed building.