Acle Fishley Hoveton Ingham Neatishead
South Walsham St Lawrence South Walsham St Mary
Stalham Sutton Wroxham

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

St Lawrence, South Walsham

St Lawrence, doing very nicely

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Perfumed garden where the tower once was Awesome early 20th century memorial

    St Lawrence, South Walsham

This church is one of two in South Walsham churchyard. Norfolk has several instances of this, and it is almost always for the same reason; we are on the border between two medieval manors, and both built their churches in the same shared consecrated ground. Why? Perhaps it was at the highest point, away from the river. More likely, the layout of tracks and lanes simply made it more convenient for it to be so. Both churches were built as new in the early 14th century, although we know there had been two churches here since at least the 12th century.

Even after the Reformation, the two parishes sustained their separate lives until well into the 19th century, administrating their communities and providing a preaching house for the people. St Lawrence had a Vicar; St Mary a Rector. There probably wasn't any difference between the forms of worship in each. If people went to church, they probably worshipped at the one that governed their every day life.

In 1827, St Lawrence was gutted by fire. The people seem to have made the chancel safe, and carried on there (church going wasn't particularly popular in the early 19th century, so there would be plenty of room) and the rest was left to crumble. In 1889 the two parishes were combined, and used St Mary as the church. The chancel here became a school.

Probably it had other uses, but it wasn't particularly well-maintained. Nor were the tower and ruined nave; in the spring of 1971 the tower was struck by lightning; shortly afterwards the sonic boom of a low-flying plane caused it to collapse, which is the kind of sight you'd pay to see.

Today, the ruins have been completely restored as a parish hall, furnished neatly in a devotional manner, so it is suited to liturgical as well as secular purposes. There is a very curious alcove in the eastern wall I'd be interested in knowing about. The building is open every day. The ruins of the tower are surrounded by a scented garden, which is absolutely lovely.

Simon Knott, September 2004

You can also read: an introduction to some Broadland churches I

   

Looking east - but where did that alcove come from? St Benedict? Designs for windows Surviving memorial

an introduction to some Broadland churches I

Acle Fishley Hoveton Ingham Neatishead
South Walsham St Lawrence South Walsham St Mary
Stalham Sutton Wroxham

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