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The Churches of St Mary and St Nicholas - Norfolk/Suffolk - October 2020 | Other Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

The Churches of St Mary and St Nicholas - Norfolk/Suffolk - October 2020


at1503

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Part I - Forgotten - St Nicholas's Church, Suffolk

History

The church of St Nicholas served the now dissolved parish of Gasthorpe, located on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. In the mid to late 1700's the villages population declined. As a result the church was abandoned and fell into disrepair around the 1780's - the parish was then consolidated with nearby Riddlesworth St Peter. Records from the parish of Riddlesworth show that, even after abandonment, burials still took place for a period of time. On a map from the 1890's the church is clearly marked as being in 'ruins', long since forgotten by the community it once served.

In 1958 the building was Grade II listed. Fast forward to today, and all that remains of the church is part of a 12th century nave, a 13th century chancel and a 15th/16th century tower - undoubtedly the building's most prominent feature.


The Explore

I had spotted the church tower from a nearby road when driving - I cross-checked my map and my suspicions were confirmed - it was indeed abandoned. A few days later on a lovely sunny morning, I decided to incoperate the explore with a walk from nearby Knettishall Heath. As I approached the church from a farm track, which happens to form part of the Angles Way footpath, clouds blew in and darkened the sky. What struck me first of all was the total disrepair the church was in - no information boards, paths, benches or anything else for that matter. It was, in a sense, forgotten by everything apart from nature.

The church itself sits next to a footpath so access was easy, however getting to the structure itself was anything but. I had to tackle 5-6ft high nettles and clumps of brambles the size of a car. I soon realised the interior of the church was going to be inaccessible. Therefore, I made do with what I could and took some photos from a distance. I hope to return and document the inside of the structure when the undergrowth is more forgiving!



Approaching the church from the Angles Way footpath.



Nearly there...







A few images of the tower, which is visible from afar.







And that's all I had time for! Now, onto another abandoned church - similar in some ways, but very different in others.



Part II - Gone But Not Forgotten - The Church of St Mary, Norfolk


History

The church of St Mary served the now dissolved parish of Tivetshall St Mary (now Tivetshall). Most of the church was constructed during the 12th/13th centuries, with additions and renovations being made in subsequent years. As early as 1702, records show there was concern over the amount of decay and the structural integrity of the building. By the end of the 19th century, the church was reportedly in such a state that its stained glass windows and valubles were stripped and moved to nearby Tivetshall St Margaret.

As World War 2 progressed into the early 1940's many airfeilds were built nearby, including RAF Tibenham (of which the runway is still used today by the Norfolk Gliding Club). This would prove fateful for St Mary's as, one day in 1947, a military plane travelling at high speed and low altitude above the church had a near miss with a nearby patch of woodland. The plane pulled up at the last minute - the resulting vibrations from the plane caused the church tower to collapse into the nave, hence its rather stunted appearance today. In the 1990's, Norfolk County Council undertook work to stabilise the remaining structure, the evidence of which is clearly visible today.


The Explore

I had driven past the church before but never had the time to stop and explore. I set out on a rainy Thursday morning in the hope there'd be parking - sure enough, there was! The church was very easily accessible from the road, and there were multiple (rather muddy) footpaths snaking there way around the churchyard. I had a wonder around, admiring the autumnal colours set against the crumbling flint of the church walls. The biggest difference between St Mary's and St Nicholas's was that the former seemed to be better maintained and used by locals. A small team of volunteers cut the grass and maintain the paths, however the graveyard seemed quite wild on my visit. I managed to put up with the rain for about half an hour, then decided to retreat to the warmth and dryness of my car.



The most striking feature greets you first - the remains of a great stained glass window.



Autumn in full swing now!





The rather wild looking graveyard - I noticed some newer gravestones near the entrance.









Some more exterior views of the church.





Where the tower once stood, before the incident in 1947. Some of the stabilisation works by NCC in the 1990's can be seen on the left wall.











The remains of the interior - only a few details were visible.



Part of the stabilisation works put in place by NCC in the 1990's.





These details in particular shed light on the fact that, despite being derelict, this is a place that is very much still alive. The well kept visitors book was a nice touch, as was the Halloween themed stone! I think some places, even in abandonment, can be remembered. St Mary's is a good example of this. On the other hand, some places are simply lost - they fade away and become invisible to us.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it all - more to come in the future!






 

Scoobysrt

Stay in, save lives.
Regular User
The picture 3rd from the bottom looks more like a handrail rather than anything that could hold the walls up but who am I to question.
I presume the visitors book had recent dates in?
From the time it was disused its highly likely there's still surviving families visiting loved ones, possibly more as an infrequent trip out now but not forgotten non the less. Any dates on the stones you could read?
 

at1503

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
The picture 3rd from the bottom looks more like a handrail rather than anything that could hold the walls up but who am I to question.
I presume the visitors book had recent dates in?
From the time it was disused its highly likely there's still surviving families visiting loved ones, possibly more as an infrequent trip out now but not forgotten non the less. Any dates on the stones you could read?
There are other stablisation works but I didn't photograph them. I do beleive those in the pictures to be the same, but I'm not 100% sure! The visitors book looked well maintained so I think people frequent the location often.
Which church are you refering too?
 

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