The village of Pettistree near Wickham Market marked the New Millennium in various ways and Mrs Patience Maxwell, who was leaving the village and moving to Oxfordshire to live nearer her family, offered to pay for the production of an altar rail kneeler. This was to replace a very dilapidated kneeler that had been in place for many years. The Maxwell family had been members of the Church of St Peter & St Paul since 1938 when Patience's father-in-law moved to Pettistree Grange and she hoped that the new kneeler would be a unique way to mark their time in the village and the turn of the new century.
The Parochial Church Council was pleased to support the project and the intention was to commission drawings to depict Suffolk flora and fauna throughout the year.
Michael Coulter the well-known local artist was asked if he could help and he produced four panels, to represent each quarter of the year with each showing a local church as well as diverse wildlife of the season. A smaller drawing depicted the 'Pettistree tree' in the four stages of the year flanked by St Peter and St Paul and designed to be placed centrally at the altar rail. Pettistree Church is particularly grateful to Michael Coulter as he refused to accept payment for the drawings but instead gave Pettistree permission to convert them into tapestries for the kneelers.
Viv Turnbull a very accomplished artist and tapestry maker spent a great deal of time transferring the paintings to canvas, working out which colour wool to use and producing very detailed kits for the work. She then taught and encouraged several ladies from the church to tackle the work, most of whom had never done this type of tapestry before, as it is finer more detailed work than standard church kneelers. Viv herself completed one of the seasonal panels and the Pettistree tree centre section, while nursing her terminally ill husband. She said that having the work to do was therapeutic and she has continued to put an enormous amount of effort into completing the whole project so that the dedication could take place on the feast of St. Peter & St Paul, and before leaving Suffolk to live nearer her daughter.
Once completed the panels were framed by more tapestry work and carefully sewn over the kneeler interiors. All the materials used are designed to be long lasting and the insides are five thicknesses of carpet underfelt. Much needed skilled assistance was given by the Wickham Market carpet fitter who spent a great deal of his free time accurately cutting the underfelt so that the kneeler bases were relatively simple to construct.
The set were finally finished on July 3rd and on Sunday July 4th 2004 during Evensong the Archdeacon of Suffolk, The Venerable Geoffrey Arrand dedicated the kneelers for use in the church. The rain of the late afternoon had cleared in time and the congregation were able to admire the kneelers and congratulate the workers while enjoying a glass of wine and the Hot Dogs that were provided in the churchyard.