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Report - St Felix, Babingley, Norfolk, August 2016



HughieD

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#1
The History:
St Felix is situated in Babingley, a small hamlet and abandoned village approximately 6 miles north of Kings Lynn. A few houses remain off the A149 Kings Lynn- Hunstanton road. Its claim to fame is that it is said to be the place where St Felix of Burgundy, Apostle to the East Angles, landed in Britain from Gaul in AD 631 and who was widely credited as introducing Christianity to the kingdom of East Anglia.

The rebuilt 14th-century parish church of St Felix was used for worship until the early 19th century. It sits in a field 200m north of the River Babingley and is now part of the nearby Sandringham estate on the site of what was thought to be the first Christian church to be built in Norfolk. The ruin today dates back to the 14th-century along with its 15th century south porch addition, built in the main of grey Sandringham stone and carstone with limestone dressings. The church consisted of a nave, north and south aisles with two-bay arcade, chancel, and west tower. These were constructed in three stages culminating with the west tower. It has undergone a number of alterations. The north aisle was demolished and its arcade blocked. Additionally the chancel arch has been bricked up and a Decorated Gothic window from the south side of the chancel re-set in the brickwork.

It's ruined state goes back along way - in a 1602 survey the chancel was described as 'decaying' and by 1752, 'dilapidated'. It is pictured below in an 1825 lithograph:

29938227761_e310eab84c.jpg
Babingley Church by HughieDW, on Flickr

William Whites' History, Gazetter and Directory stated in 1845 that "the tower and nave are in tolerable repair, but the chancel is in ruins" Repairs were apparently attempted four years later in 1849 (Pevsner) but he introduction of the mission church just off the main road in 1880 was the final nail in the St Felix's coffin as the church had its roof removed, although the church yard continued to be used into the 20th century. It was Grade I listed in March 1951. Now bar the 15th century porch the church is completely roofless.

The Explore:
It is one of the finest ruined churches in Norfolk but also the most difficult to get to, located deep into private land. My initial approach was a fail. I set off on a footpath located South-East off the A149. I soon came to the Babingley River and decided I needed to be on the north bank of it. The right turn off the footpath onto the north bank soon became impassable and I admitted defeat and returned to my car. The nearest road to the church was private and leads to Hall Farm. Signs warn of CCTV so that was a no-no. There was nothing for it. I parked up at the junction of the B1439 and the A149,walked back south along the later until I was exactly due east of the ruins and went for it. Yomping one km across farmer's fields I evaded the gaze of Hall Farm and eventually arrived that the ruins. Unsurprisingly I had the place to myself. It is much overgrown in the summer months and I had to battle the undergrowth to get in. The day had been cloudy and a bit overcast which was a bit of a disappointment. However when I headed to the west of the ruin to get a view of the whole church with the west tower in the foreground, the clouds parted and the most glorious shafts of sunlight illuminated the church. So back I yomped triumphantly again evading the gaze of potentially unhappy land owners.

The Pictures:
St Felix comes into view!

28837704314_b00c7bc4de_b.jpg
img7090 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29173201780_f8879da5dd_b.jpg
img7092 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The roofline of the nave is clearly evident in this picture:

29382131611_cc74cea0dc_b.jpg
img7091bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

And in we go via the 15th century porch:

28839868983_c4ca07e8cb_b.jpg
img7121 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The only 'semi' roofed bit of the church left:

28839706543_ec31f96b77_b.jpg
img7128 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The first of the arches of the two-bay arcade on the south aisles:

28839756503_52fb04830d_b.jpg
img7126bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the other. Note Decorated Gothic window from the south side of the chancel re-set in the brickwork:

29381687251_17686a1614_b.jpg
img7125 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Close-up of reset Gothic window:

29353270372_8f32268f3c_b.jpg
img7118 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The rather overgrown nave:

29173024220_80a1a167eb_b.jpg
img7115 by HughieDW, on Flickr

29382033771_9ec42c4740_b.jpg
img7097 by HughieDW, on Flickr

On to the West Tower and the view up:

29461530425_86f623daef_b.jpg
img7114 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Back out and a side view from the west of the 15th century porch:

29427289536_3a2b044fac_b.jpg
img7101 by HughieDW, on Flickr

North side of the church where the demolished north aisles would have been:

29382320501_a6316b971c_b.jpg
img7150 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Close-up of the West Tower:

28839639683_35ce8f0f01_b.jpg
img7139 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And close-up of the tower's delightful ground-floor window:

29427240396_b17ea809ec_b.jpg
img7108bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ah! This is why we came to this 14th century ecclesiastical gem…

29381504411_e2f300c898_b.jpg
img7146 by HughieDW, on Flickr

28840350573_d4f6aa83ea_b.jpg
img7148 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 
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