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

St Clement Colegate, Norwich

St Clement: where medieval and modern Norwich meet

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    St Clement Colegate, Norwich
15th century tower   St Clement stands at the point where medieval and modern Norwich meet; to the south are Pye Bridge, Tombland and the cathedral precincts, while to the north is busy Magdalene street. Westwards stretches Colegate, leading into Coslany, the medieval Norwich- over-the-Water, the industrial heart of the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. Recent planning policies have brought residents back into Coslany, but that was too late for St Clement, which, along with half a dozen other Colegate and Coslany churches, was declared redundant as a result of the Brooke report in the late 1960s.

The clock has been recently restored as a War Memorial, and looks very fine; its placing over the bell window is a bit awkward, but at least it provides a landmark, and there isn't another quite like it.

St Clement was probably the first of the city churches on the north side of the river, and has lived through the changes that a thousand years have brought. The present church is almost entirely the work of the 15th century, although the chancel is slightly earlier.

The font is an early 16th century one, with that proto-renaissance styling that makes us wonder how artistic endeavour might have flowered if the Reformation had not intervened. There is also a 1516 figure brass to Margaret Petwood in the middle of the nave, and these two features may indicate the date at which the church was finished.Apart from that, the interior is largely Victorian in character. There are 18th and 19th century memorials around the walls to the Ives and Harvey families, who supplied a number of mayors of Norwich.

At the west end are modern devotional statues, a holy water stoup and a place to light a candle, which might lead you to think that St Clement is still a working parish church. In fact, St Clement's future was secured after redundancy in curious circumstances. The lease was taken on by a local Methodist minister on behalf of the Norwich transport workers trade union, partly with the intention of its use as a chapel.

Because of this, all the internal furnishings have been retained. These, dating from the 19th century, are from a time when St Clement's congregation was almost wholly drawn from the local tenements and slums that housed industrial workers, so this is entirely appropriate.

As it turns out, one man's obsession has been a lifeline, and despite an arson attack about ten years ago, this remains the only one of Norwich's redundant churches that is freely open to the public for private prayer every day.

  open every day

Simon Knott, November 2005


looking east south side of the chancel
looking west devotional pulpit and memorials Margaret Petwood sanctuary
TGWU older memorial holy water from Walsingham 16th century font


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