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

All Saints, Oxwick

Oxwick: poignant

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    All Saints, Oxwick
there must be many people alive today who remember this as a working church   I always think that there is something particularly poignant about a church whose ruination is recent. Until 1940, this was a working building, but it fell into disuse and was declared redundant in 1946. In those unsentimental days it befell the fate of all such abandoned churches, having its roofs removed in a formal act of dereliction. There must be many people alive today who remember that happening.

Although not far from a back lane between Colkirk and Whissonsett, there is no proper road to the church and no real village. The church is concealed from the road by a couple of cottages, that's all, but enough to make it easy to forget that it was there. When Bill Wilson visited for the Pevsner revision in 1991 he found it overgrown and inaccessible, a mass of ivy and elder, quietly going back to nature. And that might have been the end of the story.

Step in the heroes of Norfolk County Council, who have made it their business to save and consolidate 20 or so of the most significant of Norfolk's 100-plus ruined churches. In 1993, the ruin was completely cleared of overgrowth, and the walls topped off to prevent further decay. The graveyard was also cleared, and several of the graves showed signs of being recently maintained.

Oxwick had obviously lost its tower some time in the 18th or early 19th century, and the base of the tower had been converted into a shack-like vestry. This looks most odd now that it is roofless. Also odd is the arrangement of windows in the west wall of the nave. There are two high up that must once have flanked the tower which are mysterious. John Salmon wonders if they might have given access to some kind of gallery.

The single surviving window headstop on the south side shows that this must have been quite a grand place once. Poignant beneath it is a fine 18th century headstone for Thomas Lawrence, with a skull and egg-timers to remind us of our mortality, as if the ruined church wasn't enough.

Shortly after this entry first appeared, I received a lovely e-mail from Steve Greef, sending me a photograph of his great-grandmother, Mary Greef, standing outside Oxwick church with her donkey at the end of the 19th century. Where she is standing is now completely overgrown, and the view is impossible today; but here it is, a haunting memory of Norfolk as it was before we lost it.

  Oxwick a century ago

Simon Knott, May 2006

   

west end east end headstop image niche in the porch - original place? the curious west wall of the nave the curious vestry below the fallen tower
Thomas Lawrence looking east looking west Wife of 

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