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All Saints, Mundesley
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The streets around have a seasidey feel, with gift shops and fish and chip shops and a bowling green. We could hear laughter caught by the wind, and the tattoo of an ice cream van. It was all very jolly. This part of Norfolk was very remote before the coming of the railways, but by the second half of the 19th century this beautiful coast had been discovered and reinvented as Poppyland. You could reach here in less than four hours from London, and so several former fishing villages began to develop as holiday resorts, becoming towns.
The most famous of these today is Cromer, but Mundesley had ambitions too. When the railway reached here a couple of massive hotels were built, and still stand today, rather oddly in this backwater. Plots were laid out for a a great housing estate, but the receding cliffs put people off, and they never came. And the railway, too, has gone now. Now, there are only the caravans.
In the early 19th century, Ladbroke had found All Saints a ruin, but the western third of the nave roofed and still in use - roughly, that part between the first and second buttress that you can see above. Mundesley's reinvention as a resort created a need for a new church, and so the ruin was rebuilt, spectacularly well, in two stages. Firstly, in 1904 the western end was extended to make an organ chamber, and then in 1914 the nave was extended eastwards, with a new chancel on the site of the old one. From the outside, the most obviously 'old' feature is the porch, although in fact a lot of old material seems to have been reused in the new building.
The first sign that anything is unusual comes as you step into the porch; the way into the church is just a small doorway, and you may want to open it before closing the main door behind you.
Simon Knott, August 2006
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