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

St Martin, Shotesham

Shotesham St Martin: a green ghost

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substantial tower impenetrable

    St Martin, Shotesham
the way in   The rich green valleys to the south of Norwich are full of hidden folds and quiet villages which seem content to hide in them. Shotesham is one, but in early medieval days it was prosperous enough to have four manors, each with its own church. All Saints and St Mary survive to this day. St Botolph, a mile off, is no more than lumps and bumps in the ground, but St Martin is a handsome ruin, covered liberally with elder and ivy, sitting a hundred yards or so to the south of St Mary.

Five hundred years ago they might have looked like twin ships floating in the green fields, but today St Martin is a green ghost of its companion, and has been for several centuries.

I walked across from St Mary, crossing the sunken road to Stoke Holy Cross and then up the bank on the other side, but at first I found the ruin of St Martin inpenetrable. Set on a mound, a fence guarded the approach which was in any case blocked by nettles and brambles. However, coming around to the west end beneath the tower I found a large sign proclaiming DANGER KEEP OUT. Assuming that such a sign was only necessary because access was possible here, I climbed up under the trees and found myself in the tree-shrouded former graveyard of St Martin.

It was a simple matter then to step through the former south doorway into the church itself, which was in any case pretty clear inside. I assumed that someone with a lawn mower and a hedge trimmer had also taken it upon themselves to ignore the sign.

The walls to the nave are crumbling, as you'd expect, but you can still see the outline of the building. The tower appears substantially sound, and you can look up its length as if it was a chimney, clouds and jackdaws wheeling at the top.

A curiosity, which Cautley spotted in the 1930s and you can still see today, is a long narrow opening in the south internal wall. It is a banner stave locker - there is another across the road in St Mary. These are an oddity; they seem to have been used for storing processional banners. The thing is, there are only about 30 churches which have them and they are all within 20 miles or so of Lowestoft. It makes you wonder what other churches did to look after their banners. Perhaps they had tall wooden cupboards built especially for the purpose; but, if so, then none have survived.

  going up

Simon Knott, September 2006

inside the nave looking east sanctuary repair beneath a window
west window banner stave locker looking west

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