The Parish of Sudbury has a long history that goes back to 799AD when mention is made of the death in the town of Aelfhun, Bishop of Dunwich.
In the mid 13th Century a community of Dominicans settled in the town. 1372 saw the formation of St Leonards Hospital (originally for lepers) by Simon of Sudbury, the creator of the Poll Tax who in 1367 was consecrated Bishop of London. In 1375 he also founded the College of St Gregory to support eight priests.
The first public Mass in Sudbury since before the Reformation was said by Fr Patrick Rogers in the converted front room of number 28 Church Street on the 7th November 1876. This was due to the intiative of one Sudbury family. They were John and Esther Flowers who lived at that address.
This room was christened "The Church of Our Lady and St John The Evangelist" and sometimes "Mary Immaculate and St John".
28 Church Street as it is today
In 1880 the new Bishop of Northampton, the Rt Rev Arthur Riddell appointed the Priest Father Valerius d'Apreda and Sudbury became a Parish.
He said his first mass in Church Street and then took up his new duties at 21 Scepulchre Street, later renamed Gainsborough Street.
The house was chiefly furnished by parishioners and the largest room in this house was reserved as the chapel
21 Gainsborough Street
as it is today
Sometime shortly after 1880 the parish purchased St Joseph's Cottage , a pair of Victorian cottages on The Croft.
(The right hand side of St Joseph's Cottage was subsequently demolished to make way for the new church but the left hand side survives to this day as the Priests House)
Around 1885 the Sisters of Sacred Heart founded a convent and school in Willow Cottage, a bequest from a grateful parishioner.
1891 saw the appointment of a new Parish priest, Father William Fippard. Under his guidance the foundation stone of the new church on it's present site was laid by the Bishop of Northampton in June 1893.
It's solemn opening with Pontifical High Mass was on 10th December of the same year. The Church of Our Lady and St John the Evangelist, Sudbury was established.
He was succeeded in 1894 by Father Augustin Peacock who during his term established the first Catholic school at the bottom of the Presbytery garden.
This school opened on the 28th January, 1901 with a roll or 26 children. A new school was opened at Beaconsfield Road on 28th August, 1909 by the Bishop.
Father Peacock served the Parish of Sudbury for 23 years before leaving on 25th October, 1917.
Recognition of Father Peacock's outstanding achievenment at Sudbury was given when he was made a Canon of the Northampton chapter on 5th February, 1919.
From 1917 to 1930 the Parish had a number of supply Priests and it wasn't until the arrival of Father Ralph Moir in 1930 that the affairs of the parish entered a phase of stability and prosperity.
The mother of Fr Moir lived with him in the Presbytery and together they were responsible for the restoration of the Shrine of Our Lady of Sudbury.
The original Shrine had always been kept in the Lady Chapel of St Gregory's Church, it is believed to have been hidden there for safety during the Reformation.
The Shrine is today in the Nave of the church.
The Mannock family lived at Giffords Hall, Withermarsh Green since 1428 and despite the suppression of the faith during those times, a priest lived at the Hall, masquerading as a tutor and Mass was celebrated there.
Following the Catholic emancipation a new church with a presbytery was built and opened on 2nd August, 1827, dedicated to St. Edmund.
From here the parish priest also served the church at Sacred Heart in Nayland, built in 1902 by a local family of industrialists and brewers, the Cuddons. Mass was celebrated here for the first time on 18th December, 1902.
At that time in Hadleigh there were very few catholics who either went to Withermarsh Green or Ipswich for Sunday Mass. On 15th October 1937, the Diocese was given a derelict factory in Angel Street, Hadleigh by a Miss Earles and, once the building had been cleaned and renovated, part of it served as a chapel for Sunday Mass. The congregation was tiny and, lacking financial support the chapel closed in 1940 and was requisitioned by the local authority for the use of evacuees.
By 1944 Mass was again being celebrated in the chapel at Hadleigh; the records show that there were 26 parishioners at Hadleigh, 18 at Withermarsh Green and 25 at Nayland. Long term fundraising efforts were made to build a proper church but events brought this forward rather abruptly.
On 23rd September 1964, a fire broke out in part of the building being used as an engineering works and the whole structure burned to the ground. Up to that time the fundraising efforts had raised only £2,300 - well short of the minimum £10,000 needed at that time. Aided by £6,000 insurance money, building work commenced in September 1965 and the foundation stone laid in January 1966.
Massive fundraising efforts continued and the building was completed; the first Mass being celebrated on 17th July 1966.
St Edmunds at Withermarsh Green is now in private ownership. The Catholic cemetery next door remains the property of the Diocese and interments are still being made there.
The last Mass was celebrated in Sacred Heart, Nayland on 5th September 2010
On 10th September 2010, Bishop Michael Evans concelebrated Mass at St Jospeh's, Hadleigh to establish the new parish of Sudbury with Hadleigh, in the pastoral care of Fr. Peter Brett.