Fressingfield Methodist Church is one of ten churches in the Waveney Valley Ecumenical Partnership, the majority of them in villages, and under the care of two full time ministers.
The present building was begun in 1873 although there is an entry in the accounts of 8s 1d (40.5p) for rent of the old chapel. The location of this chapel is not known. On 11th November 1872 the Trustees met and it was reported that a plot of land with a cottage had been bought for £120 and tenders had been asked for the construction of a chapel. Ultimately Messrs. Darby and Bull of Bungay were engaged to put up a building 30’ by 22’ at a cost of £182. To cover these costs £200 was borrowed from Connexional Funds and £100 from a Reverend Warner of Richmond.
The Foundation Services were held on Thursday August 7th 1873, the large room at the Swan Inn being used for the tea and Public Meeting. On Sunday October 19th 1873 the chapel was opened, the first service being conducted by the Reverend George Tetley of Norwich.
The total debt at the opening must have been in the region of £350 when legal fees and unforeseen sundries are taken into consideration, and during the next 27 years this was to hang round the Society’s neck like a millstone. The people were very few and very poor, and it took them all their time to meet the current expenses and the interest on their debt. At the turn of the century the debt still remained, all was not well and there was talk of closing. Then came Pastor Sutton, and for the next 70 years the story of Fressingfield Methodist Church is the story of Pastor Sutton.
He was appointed to Fressingfield for a one-year appointment and was to remain until his death in 1970 at the age of 96. Until 1945, when he officially retired, he was full-time Pastor of the church, a situation rare in Methodism. Born at Gresham in Norfolk, he began work on a farm at the age of 12, for 1s 6d (7.5p) for a seven day week.
He wanted to become a preacher and worked as a local preacher on the Holt and Sheringham circuit for three years before entering the full time ministry. His initial stipend was 25s (£1.25) per week.
The situation that faced him on his arrival must have been somewhat depressing, but he at once set to work to deal with it. Over the years the debt was cleared and the Church built up.
During his first 25 years a new schoolroom was built, the chapel re-seated and a small pipe organ installed. Then, as it were to mark his silver jubilee, the chapel was extended in 1926.
Pastor Sutton married Miss Harriet Goodwin, whose father Isaac Goodwin, was then a Trustee and Leader of the church. Another of his daughters was to marry Mr Harold Dean, and together they were to become prominent figures in the Society. Mr and Mrs Isaac Goodwin are remembered by the Goodwin Hall, which was built, on land behind the chapel, for the use of the young of the village and has played such a large part in the activities of the church.
The Methodist Chapel facilities are in regular use by the community; the pre-school music group meets in the schoolroom on a Tuesday morning during the school term and both rooms can be hired by village organisations needing somewhere comfortable to meet or hold events. Facilities are provided for the parking of the NHS chiropody service caravan in the car park when it visits the village.