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Mary, Tivetshall St Mary
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Tivetshall St Mary
14c plain tower... an
extraordinarily plain building... the only things of
interest are a plain Stuart table and the Arms of George
IV... so wrote Monro Cautley of St Mary when he came
here on his tour through the churches of Norfolk in the
years immediately following the Second World War.
was not necessarily a bad thing in Cautley's
eyes; he hated over-restored churches. St Mary
had escaped this, because during the 19th century
it had been in such poor condition the
parishioners had all decamped a mile up the road
St Margaret. It was only in the 20th
century that the thatched roof here was replaced,
and the building made sound.
But St Mary
obviously paled in comparison with St Margaret, one of
Cautley's favourite churches. And then, in 1949,
St Mary paid for the lack of 19th century
attention. An early jet plane broke the sound
barrier while flying low above this parish, and
the sonic boom sent a tremor through the tower of
St Mary, causing it to collapse into the nave.
Tivetshall churches sit out in the fields on opposite
sides of this rambling, intensely agricultural parish. To
look at St Mary now, it is hard to conceive that it was
still in use until less than half a century ago, the
destruction was so complete. If it was not for the
tracery of the great east window, you might not even
recognise it as a church.
ruin is entirely accessible without having been
tamed very much, which I liked a lot. You can
even enter through the old south porch, or what
is left of it. And you can climb up on to the
mound at the west end, all that is left of the
plain 14th century tower.
graveyard is still maintained, the grass is cut
within the ruin walls. The village war memorial
sits beside the former south porch, and the
wreaths on it included one from the village
primary school children, which was lovely. The
skeletal trees that surrounded it on the raw
February day we came here will be full in leaf
for summertime, and this will be a verdant,
beautiful place. And, as the years pass, the ruin
of St Mary will continue to soften and fade, the
rugged flint going back to earth, a plot of
ground that will still be a touchstone, and
proper to grow wise in.
Simon Knott, March 2006
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