||For a number of reasons,
not all related to depopulation, Norfolk has more
ruined churches than any other English county.
Some of them are little-known, but the former
parish church of Islington is probably one of the
better-known ones. I hadn't been here for ten
years, and I'd probably remembered it rather more
fondly than it deserved. I was on a bike ride in
the marshlands, visiting the Wiggenhalls and the
Tilneys and the Terringtons, amongst others.
Earlier in the day, I had deliberately skipped a
visit to the ruin at Wiggenhall St Peter to make
sure I had time for this one. In retrospect, that
was probably a mistake.
Some ruins hide away, lost because
they are too remote for anyone to know or care
anymore. But St Mary is hard against the A47, a
half-mile farm track from the roundabout leading
you to a building that functions as little more
than a view for passing drivers these days. If
you are on a bike or on foot, you'll need to take
your life in your hands to cross the busy
A small cruciform church, the 15th
century tower survives but the 13th century nave is now
roofless. As is common with churches that were slowly
abandoned, most of the furnishings were destroyed by a
combination of vandalism and neglect, but the two bells
still ring out over Histon in the busy northern suburbs
of Cambridge, which is a nice thought.
The chancel is still roofed and is bricked off with its
own entrance, but is no longer in use you used to
be able to look through the grills to see the Victorian
sanctuary step and three memorials to the Bagget and
Dixon familied on the north wall, but the grills have
been replaced by horrid plastic sheeting.
St Mary is not a particularly attractive ruin, and it may
come as a surprise to learn that the Churches
Conservation Trust are responsible for its upkeep
I doubt theyd take it on nowadays. Indeed, while
they do an admirable job in maintaining the structure, it
is perhaps significant that the signs still bear the old
name of the Redundant Churches Fund, and I was told by my
mole inside the CCT that the organisation would love to
shift this one off its books if it possibly could.
Simon Knott, September 2016
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