Otley Church is situated on the outskirts of the South West corner of the village at the top of Otley hill and is mostly hidden from the main village by trees.
The Suffolk Doomsday of 1086 records a Church for Otley. Nothing is left of that early building but there has been 900 years of continuous worship on the site. The present building in the Gothic style dates from the 13th century.
There is evidence that the Nave originally had a steep pitched roof (as the Chancel) no higher than the arches. In the 15th century the walls were heightened to include clerestory windows and the hammer beam roof.
In Cromwell's time the angels on the hammerbeam roof lost their wings and their heads were sawn off.
The font, which had sides decorated with lions alternating with angels and archangels holding shields, was mutilated with axe and hammer. The present seating was installed in 1879. In an earlier age the Nave and Chancel had been fitted with box pews. A gallery was erected at the west end and supported a new organ. Access was by a stairway from the north porch.
At the front of the Nave is a most interesting benchend with the fleur-de-lis on the top; the heraldic arms are those of Beauchamp and Fitz-Alan of Arundel. The lower quartering on the right still appears in that position on the arms of the Duke of Norfolk. The Pulpit is Jacobean. When first installed there was a carved panel behind and a tester (sounding board) above.
The roof timbers are reminiscent of Jacobean scrollwork, dating from a restoration in 1840. At the base of the wall posts are six shields: one is an emblem of the Trinity; the one opposite is carved with symbols of the Passion. The four outer shields have letters, which spell out the constant Advent message “Prepare”.
On the North side of the sanctuary is a memorial to John Gosnold, whose family seat was Otley Hall. One Bartholomew Gosnold sailed to America in 1607 and founded Jamestown in Virginia, the first English settlement in that country. Chairs in the sanctuary were locally made and incorporated ancient pew ends and a misericord. On the North side of the Chancel is a door leading into the Vestry.
This room has the very rare feature of an underfloor total immersion Baptismal Font, this is the only one in Suffolk and it is thought that there are only two in the country, it was constructed in the 19th century. The font was filled from the rainwater off the Chancel roof via an underground pipe, and the outlet was piped to the pond next to the Church path, due to a leakage of water it was decided to leave it empty which now gives a better view of its construction. As the Vestry is normally locked, viewing can only take place by appointment. Recently it has been open for viewing on the same days that Otley Hall is open to the public.
The tower is 15th century and has been extensively repaired. There are six bells. In 1876 the peal of five bells was repaired by Day's of Eye. In 1934 the second bell was recast and the peal tuned and re-hung on a lower level. The bells are still rung on a regular basis. The clock dates from 1889 and has faces to the East and North. The great West doors were re-cut in the 19th century and are permanently closed.
The West window calls to mind all the Christian Virtues. Ancient bench ends are well worth looking at. By the main door, the holy water stoup was mostly destroyed, but that destruction revealed what looks like part of a bowl in Norman or earlier style.
On the south face of the chancel buttress is a small Scratch Dial, indicating times for the Canonical hours and Mass.
In 2003 the porch was converted into a disabled persons toilet and a kitchen. The toilet is accessed from the outside door on the North side. The installation of these facilities has helped in making it possible for socialising at the close of services and has also given us the possibility of holding other events in the Church (such as concerts).
For details of Services and contacts visit www.achurchnearyou.com