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

St Peter, Corpusty

Corpusty: a landmark for miles

Read the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to see them enlarged.
north side north doorway first sight from the path from the south-east
austere tower south door, now secure  south nave window west window east end of the chancel

    St Peter, Corpusty
St Peter by Ladbrooke, 1820s   Norfolk is nowhere near as flat as Sir Noel Coward liked to make out, but it has few dramatic vistas. One of the grandest is the sight of Corpusty and Saxthorpe as you come over the hill along the Norwich to Holt road. The valley drops away below you, the villages scattered down the opposing slopes.

At the highest point is the church of St Peter, Corpusty. This must be an ancient site, and the tower of St Peter is a landmark for miles around. But that is almost all it is. For this church was abandoned almost forty years ago, and it has lain derelict ever since.

It has not been without its friends. In 1974, local resident Roger Last wrote a letter to the Eastern Daily Press expressing his concern about the state of the church and its descent into vulnerability and vandalism. It so happened that a few miles away at Holt Rectory someone else was girding her loins for the battle to save churches. Lady Billa Harrod, who had seen off the Brooke Report which advocated the demolition of redundant churches, contacted Roger, and their meeting led to the formation of the Committee for Country Churches, which developed into the Norfolk Churches Trust. You can read more about the activities of the Trust on the entry for Warham St Mary Magdalen. The BBC came and filmed Roger showing Sir Roy and Lady Harrod around Corpusty; you can see some lovely archive photographs of this event at the bottom of the page.

What has happened in the thirty years since? Matthew Saunders of the Friends of Friendless Churches tells me that they bought the church when it was in danger of demolition, and have spent 70,000 on repairing the tower. When I first came here in the mid-1990s there was no access at all to the graveyard; it was completely overgrown. Now, it has been cut back, and a path made up to the south porch. This porch is now secure, and the tower has been almost completely restored, with the bell windows secured and the keys of St Peter placed in a prominent position. Best of all, the roof is sound, covered with striking red pantiles.

The nave and chancel, however, have a long way to go. Corrugated iron sheets fill the windows, nettles and bracken to a height of six feet surround the church. A tree grows out of the east window. I made a difficult circumnavigation, and was probably the first person this year to do so. The view from the east end of the graveyard is stunning, by the way. When I enquired of a contact in the Churches Conservation Trust if work on the body of the church was in hand, I was told 'don't hold your breath'.

However, in 2005, it was the chosen location for the annual service of the Friends of Friendless Churches, so people still care. And much has changed since 1974. We are a wealthier country, we are more interested in heritage and local history, there is more of a will to save buildings like St Peter. Perhaps I will hold my breath after all.

Simon Knott, October 2005

   

Roger Last showing the Harrods around Corpusty church, 1974:
reproduced by kind permission of Roger Last

Roger Last showing the Harrods around Corpusty church, 1974 Roger Last showing the Harrods around Corpusty church, 1974
Roger Last showing the Harrods around Corpusty church, 1974 Roger Last showing the Harrods around Corpusty church, 1974 Roger Last showing the Harrods around Corpusty church, 1974

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