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beautiful ruined church sits above the road not
far from the village of West Newton, near to the
heart of the Sandringham estate. There was once a
village, but it has completely gone, although it
is said you can make out where the streets and
houses were in the field to the north-east of the
church after a dusting of light snow.
St Mary was
a round-towered church, and it was a big, fat
handsome tower, constructed of carstone and
flint. The tower arch appears Norman, but the
carstone banding of the tower suggests that it
was early, possibly even pre-Conquest. An even
stronger suggestion comes from the bell openings
- like a gap-toothed smile now, but surely these
were once triangular headed windows? If so, then
this tower was certainly Saxon, possibly as early
as 1000. The ruins of the tiny church against it
show that this part of the building was much more
recent, probably by about 300 years, presumably
replacing a Norman church.
quite recently, St Mary was considerably
overgrown, but it has been cleared and restored,
perhaps as part of the Norfolk County Council
project to preserve the best of the county's
hundred- odd ruined churches, or possibly by the
Sandringham estate. Whatever, you can now walk
inside, and see the pretty arcade into the south
aisle. Curiously, a porch appears to have been
built into the aisle - or was the aisle
demolished, and the arcade blocked up? Curious.
I pushed my
way through the nettles to the east end,
intending to turn and photograph the tower arch.
I stumbled on a ridge, and, clearing the
undergrowth carefully, found a 13th century
coffin lid embedded in the ground, older than the
ruin itself apart from the tower, and still
waiting after all these years.
Simon Knott, July 2006
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