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

Methodist Church, Overstrand

Overstrand Methodist

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Overstrand methodist Overstrand methodist

    Methodist Church, Overstrand

Overstrand is a large coastal village just to the east of the jolly town of Cromer, and might even be described as a kind of suburb, although of the very best kind. There is something very English about Overstrand, the pub and the houses and the churches, which may be a result of the families carrying buckets and spades and lilos down to the beach, but may also be because, more than any other north Norfolk village, Overstrand bears the hallmark of the great Clement Scott. Scott was a journalist who, in search of a story, came to Overstrand in the 1880s, and fell in love with it. He spent the next twenty years writing about it in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. He christened this coast 'Poppyland', and Poppyland became a favoured resort of several generations of English holidaymakers searching for a rural idyll in the years before and after the First World War. Overstrand in particular became so fashionable that many well-off Londoners, particularly from the theatrical and literary worlds, built houses here, and grand hotels remain to this day, although the grandest of them went over the cliffs in the 1950s.

Scott was a Catholic, and it is no coincidence that Cromer's Catholic church is out on the road to Overstrand. The Anglican church is on the western edge of the village, and was substantially restored in the first years of the 20th Century. But to cater for the influx of visitors there also needed to be a non-conformist presence, and in 1898 the architect Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to create what is probably rural Norfolk's most remarkable building of the decade.

It is, as Pevsner observed, a very curious design. Essentially a hall church, a jaunty clerestory lifts above austere and yet intricate brickwork, reminscent of Lutyens's later work in the crypt of Liverpool Catholic Cathedral. The main doorway at the eastern end is awesome in its gravitas on such a small building. But the most curious feature is the set of buttresses which run from beneath the clerestory and support it out on the outer walls - as Pevsner says, it is an aggressive functionality. It seems extraordinary now that this building was designed and built in the 19th Century, and with hindsight we can see that this was one of East Anglia's first tastes of the Modernism which was an inevitable descendant of Pugin's 1840s emphasis on the functionality of architecture, and which would be, by the 1930s, in the ascendant everywhere in the world.

  Overstrand methodist

Simon Knott, June 2009


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