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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk

St Andrew, Buckenham Tofts

site of Buckenham Tofts Hall

Buckenham Tofts Hall stable block

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St Andrew, Buckenham Tofts

Buckenham Tofts was one of the smallest villages inside what is now the British Army's battle training area in south-west Norfolk. In the mid-19th Century, when rural East Anglian populations were reaching a peak, it had just seventy-seven inhabitants. But it did have the largest house, Buckenham Tofts Hall. Whites Directory of 1844 described it as a large, handsome mansion, in an extensive park, on both sides of the river. At this time it was owned by the Baring family, who had bought it about twenty years earlier from Baron Petre, and it is likely that pretty much the entire population of the parish worked for the Hall. The church stood to the north of the Hall, but both are now gone. The church fell into decay and its remains were cleared away when the Barings bought the estate, its site used for a pleasure garden. The Hall was finally demolished in 1946 after the Army took over the area for battle training, but its site is still obvious. In the photograph at the top of this page, the Hall filled the large flat area in front of the surviving stable block.

The church stood to the left beyond the razor wire and the remains of the 18th Century kitchen garden wall. There appears to be no record of what the church looked like, its ruination happening before the late 18th and early 19th Century antiquarians and artists travelled the land drawing medieval survivals. Its burial ground has been mapped by archaeologists. At the time of White's Directory, the rectory was still being presented to, and it was held by the Reverend T Newman as a sinecure for 3 a year, roughly 600 in today's money. For this, he would have to hold one service a year on the site of the church. Nothing can have remained of the structure even then, and today all that survives of the Hall and its grounds is the long stable block and a bridge over the River Wissey, both of which will be recognisable to avid viewers of the television comedy series Dad's Army, which used them as shooting locations.

Simon Knott, December 2023

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a general introduction to the churches of the Norfolk battle training area


a visit to the Battle Training Area churches in 2023

   
 
               
                 

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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk