St Mary Coslany is one of 36-odd surviving
medieval parish churches in the centre of
Norwich, it is so old that it actually predates
that time, and was probably the original parish
church of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Coslany.
Indeed, its thousand-year-old tower may post-date
Coslany became an area of
factories, warehouses and breweries, and there
are still factories today; the huge one to the
west of the church is the printing works of a
religious publishing house. The three surviving
Coslany churches are all redundant today, and St
Mary has been redundant for the longest.
As at St
Peter Hungate, St Mary has the elegance of a small,
cruciform church, quite the prettiest of the
north-central churches, I think. Its great treasure is a
boss of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven,
which crowns the central crossing. it did well to survive
the bombs of January 1942, which destroyed part of the
roof and damaged the crossing.
St Mary had been derelict by the end of the
Victorian era, it underwent a major restoration
in the early 20th century; this was no doubt part
of the evangelical enthusiasm that also saw the
restoration of St Swithin. However, it had fallen
out of use by the Second World War.
had not been considered safe enough to ring the
bells, and in 1937 they were taken down and
rehung in the massive new church of St Catherine
at Mile Cross to the north-west. The church
presence in this part of Coslany is today
maintained by the huge Norwich Central Baptist
Hall directly opposite, and a smaller Elim
Pentecostal church which today uses the former
Plunkett's photographs of the 1930s, below, show the
inside of St Mary on the eve of its destruction and
redundancy. After repair, and serving as a craft centre
for a number of years, St Mary Coslany is today the
offices of an internet bookshop and a publishing company.
keep it locked, and don't welcome visitors -
indeed, when Peter Stephens tried to photograph
the inside, a rather pompous woman told him that
she was 'far too busy to keep an eye on you' and
shut the door in his face, which seems a pity.
However, Chris Harrison was more fortunate, and
tells me that he was able to visit one afternoon
by knocking at the south porch door. His
photographs are the colour interiors on this
Perhaps the most interesting
surviving features are a 1605 brass to Ann
Claxton, and the memorial to Martin van Kirnbeck,
who died in 1579. The figures are incised into
the stone; there is something similar at St
Martin at Plea.