The Bible holds not a single mention of cats.

But that hasn’t stopped devout feline Jerry, aged almost 20, from regularly attending services and paying visits to Langham’s St Mary’s Church.

A sign on the church door proclaims Jerry to be the holder of the “ancient office” of honorary church cat.

For almost two decades, Jerry has acted as the church’s greatest ambassador.

St Mary’s, which sits in the picturesque Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, regularly attracts nature-lovers wandering the nearby Essex Way footpath.

Recent visitor Will Bramhill regularly stops off at the church to say hello to its furry custodian.

“I just pop in there on bike rides as it’s a nice place to sit and have a picnic,” he said.

“I’ve done it for years and Jerry generally joins me.”

He added: “Last time I was there, the gravedigger had his spaniel with him.

“Jerry jumped up on to the church porch out of the way, but he needn’t have bothered - the dog was of a similar age and completely disinterested in chasing cats.”

Church warden Stephen Garner, who has lived in Langham for more than 30 years, said Jerry officially resides at the nearby Langham Hall.

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“He must be near to 20-years-old and was only about two when he adopted the church as his second home,” he said.

“Ever since then he has been there to great visitors for going on 18 or 19 years.

“He is officially a Langham Hall cat and his original given name was Henry, but for some reason or other someone called him Jerry and it stuck.

“It can be Jerry with a J or a G, he doesn’t mind which.”

No-one arrives for Sunday service earlier than Jerry, as Mr Garner explains.

“You would be the first one to turn up on a Sunday morning and you would hear a little cat chirrup noise, he would come through the five-bar gate – presumably coming from the stables – and meet you at the church,” he said.

“Gradually over the years he hung around more and more.

“I would think it was originally his own hunting ground, but he clearly likes to greet people and great them warmly.

“He will accompany people into the church as he always fancies a look around.”

In times untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, Jerry would regularly join the congregation during services – although his attention occasionally wandered.

“We haven’t had a service for a few months, but he would attend services, either sitting beside someone or on a lap,” said Mr Garner

“If he gets bored he would wander over to the door and ask to be let out – and he would ask rather loudly.

“He can let off quite a loud yowl when he wants to.”

Whether Jerry enjoys the comfort of a sermon or whether he just enjoys social connection, it is clear he loves the beautiful St Mary’s.

The medieval church featured in a number of John Constable’s best-known paintings.

It is Grade I-listed and its exterior was extensively restored in the 1980s, but the church holds a tremendous amount of history within its walls.

“If you go into various historical records, there is a consensus there was certainly a church on the site in Saxon times – although most of those were of a timber build,” said Mr Garner.

“But the original part of it must go back to the early 12th century.

“There were various additions and extensions, we know the tower is a later addition with a slight extension westwards.

"There were a lot of quite extensive repairs and some alterations in 1863.

“The roof of the nave is the most striking part, and often gets comments from visitors.

“That could well be of the original build and is, if not 12th century, then certainly early 13th Century.”

Visitors are always welcome, but are urged to remember not to lock Jerry inside when they leave, with the sign on the door proclaiming: “He is short of stature and unable to reach the door handle to let himself out.”