Churches that aren’t

Of course they were once churches – but now, no longer so.

St Mary East Somerton

Norfolk has a number of these – many in the city – some were bombed during the Second World War – some just lost their congregations  and some had to be sold because people could no longer afford to keep them going. Out in the country places it is a little different. A few weeks ago I was invited to go and look at three of these former churches. Three very different ruins.

The first was right up near the north east coast. The church of St Mary, East Somerton. If I hadn’t done my homework first and didn’t have a good navigator with me, I could have missed it. The church is in the middle of a wood and it looks as if the wood has taken over.

There are even trees within the walls of the church – and the roof had disappeared long ago. A sort of takeover bid by Winterton church a short distance away left the building without a congregation. It somehow survived for a short time as a Chapel of Ease for the convenience of the Hall, which is another term for a private chapel. There are a number of theories about why it fell into disuse and indeed where all the bits went! Anyone visiting the site now will find that it has been even more fenced off than my doctored photographs show – and be prepared for a bit of a walk, the locals are somewhat unwelcoming of visitors and especially their cars.

All Saints Billockby is part ruin and part church! Once upon a time it must have been a fine building, but the tower was struck by lightning in 1762 and an enormous crack – still clearly visible –  was made in the tower.

So the tower and nave of the church were severely damaged. It appears that the congregation could not drum up enough money to attempt a repair and so the chancel of the church became the church itself.

Today the thatched chancel is very attractive from the outside. It is a bit plain inside but the church is locked anyway. The ruins meanwhile continue to decay gently and are unsafe.

All Saints Panxworth causes one to ask “Wow what is that?”

It is by the side of one of the roads between South Walsham and Ranworth. What you see in the photograph is all that there is! It is a church tower with what must have been part of a west end. Apparently the church was heavily restored in the 19th century.  Nevertheless the building was declared redundant in the 1970s and clearly a decision was taken to knock down the Victorian additions.

All that remains today is the 14th century tower and a supporting wall. Tough if you are a Victorian enthusiast.

An odd note on which to finish – but as you can see from the shots –we had a lovely fine day for our visit.