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Church Post Code NR21 9BX

Open to visitors

Visited October 2021

It was October 2021 and a few days away on the North Norfolk coast, stopping at Heacham and using that as a base to visit churches as far along the coast as Wells and inland to Walsingham and Fakenham. The original plan was to hire a cycle and spend a day at North and South Creake. The weather put paid to that though and the time spent at Fakenham was one of the few sunny periods in the whole trip. The pages on this site looking at the Burnham Market area and the Walsingham's also come from this same trip.

    I did visit East Barsham after leaving Houghton St Giles but I have not included this on here. As someone who has lived in a farming village for my entire life I am ashamed to say that I was seen off the church grounds there by a small flock of quite boisterous sheep! 

   This is a glorious part of Norfolk; one that I have developed a real love for over the last 15 years or so. Wonderful churches, which it was good to see were open and welcoming, as they were pre covid, and warm and friendly people.


The fine perpendicular tower at the church of St Peter & St Paul, Fakenham stands centrally in this very pleasant market town. Fond memories of staying here in 2014 and exploring this area, and its friendly open and welcoming churches.  In pre covid times there was a popular Christmas tree festival held inside the church here. At the time of this trip, Fakenham church was open daily until 1pm. There was hand sanitiser on entry and every second pew was not being used to help with social distancing. 

    It was peaceful and calm inside, a far cry from the usual scrum of people congregating around the Oak Street bus stops outside the church. The church here dates back to the 14th century, with the present structure replacing an earlier Saxon church on this site. It consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, south porch and chancel.

    The perpendicular tower was built between 1400 and 1450, and is of four stages. There are intricate flushwork buttresses with the top of the tower being battlemented and pinnacled. Ancient gargoyles look out centrally from all four sides. The church clock is set on to the south face.  Entry is through the double decker south porch which dates from the late 15th century. 


With the exception of a friendly local, there was no one about inside. The interior here was heavily restored during Victorian times. It was bright and welcoming inside; with the small amount of stained glass relative to the size of the building helping in this respect. 

The east window is of five lights with several small panels detailing scenes from the life of Christ. We have the nativity, Jesus' baptism, Jesus carrying his cross, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. One small panel shows the Pelican in her piety; where a mother pelican rips at her own breast, feeding her chicks her own blood. This was an often used Christian symbol, comparing this to Jesus shedding his blood for us. High up in the tracery are items of Christ's crucifixion and the emblems of the four Gospel writers. The sun cast multi coloured reflections through the glass on to 18th century wall monuments on the north wall of the chancel.

    A three light window illustrates Jesus raising Jairus' daughter. Jesus holds her hand and blesses her as she is brought back from the dead. I found the reaction of those watching of interest. Jairus looks shocked whilst one of Jesus' disciples, who I think might be James, just looks relaxed, arms folded as if this was what he saw day in day out; and I daresay it was!

    One further three light window depicts Jesus central, as the Good Shepherd, lamb is arms. Looking out directly at those looking in! He is flanked by St Peter to our right, who holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and to our left is Queen Victoria, crowned and holding a globe.



The octagonal font dates back to the 15th century. Just to mention two of the panels. One shows some of the instruments of Christ's passion. The cross in central, with crown of thorns hanging from the top. Also shown are nails, hyssop stick, speak and whip. Another panel has a diagram on it, which consists of four interconnected circles. Both the circles and the lines connecting them will have had text on them, removed now possibly by the reformers. which helped to explain the trinity! God is central with The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit being the other three. Each line would have either 'Is' or 'Is not'  written on them, no doubt in Latin.

The sequence would read "The Father is God" "The Son is God" "The Holy Spirit is God" "God is the Father" "God is the Son"    "God is the Holy Spirit" "The Father is not the Son" "The Father is not the Holy Spirit" "The Son is not the Father" "The Son is not the Holy Spirit" "The Holy Spirit is not the Father" "The Holy Spirit is not the Son"



Church Post Code NR22 6AQ

Open to visitors


I moved on, heading to Houghton St Giles, some four miles north of Fakenham, on the outskirts of Walsingham. This is a tiny picturesque village, with the church of St Giles standing by the side of the main road through the village. It had been a day of contrasting weather, with bright sunshine followed by heavy rain on several occasions during the day. A brief shower while the sun was out led to this reasonably half hearted, but still beautiful rainbow. It was lovely to see this! The church here is another favourite of mine, and I have visited three or four times over the years. I have never found it closed to visitors; and it was open again on this occasion. Fond memories of a previous trip here on a hot and sunny late summer afternoon; shirt sleeved in the church grounds with the harvest being gathered a few yards away!

    The church here dates back to the 14th century, but was rebuilt in 1877 with materials used from a previous structure. St Giles consists of square west tower with small pyramid cap, south porch and nave, which runs seamlessly through to the chancel. The church grounds are left to grow wild on the east side, with sheep grazing in glorious rolling countryside off to the west.

    It was quiet and peaceful, with hardly a soul about. I mentioned on another page about a book that I had read which looked at the Black Death of the 14th century. It mentioned that parties of pilgrims from villages throughout East Anglia gathered together to march to Walsingham to pray to the Virgin Mary for deliverance from the coming pestilence. Little Walsingham is around a mile or so to the north east and I spent a little time just trying to picture what things must have been like then, as the Black Death, which they had heard about but which had not arrived yet, and which was to kill between 40% and 60% of Europe's population, drew closer!


The interior is pretty much Victorian, dating from the restoration of the late 1870's. Rows of Victorian pews lead to the medieval rood screen. The walls are whitewashed and the stations of the cross  line the walls. There is no chancel arch here, the whole of the interior being a single unit, with nave and chancel separated by the screen.

The three light east window depicts the crucifixion. To be fair, this is not my most favourite depiction of this scene. The background colours are vibrant but the representations of Mary and John are quite wooden and have strange facial expressions and features. 

   A depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a memorial window. Jesus has long flowing red hair, looking distinctly un Jewish. The lamb that He carries looks directly and perhaps accusingly at the onlooker! There is also stained glass depicting St Giles, who was a hermit who lived in solitude from other humans. He is often shown with a hind deer; legend stating that St Giles rescued a hind deer from the Kings hunters. An arrow fired at the deer hit St Giles instead leaving his lame as being the Patron Saint of the physically disabled as a result.

It is also said that St Giles was invoked as protection against the Black Death and I wonder how many of the pilgrims mentioned above, found their way in to this church!


The rood screen is a gem! It dates from the 15th century and is unusual in that it has six depictions of female characters to the north side and six male figures to the south. The marks of the 16th century reformers can still be seen with the faces on these images being defaced, It is interesting to see the various levels of damage inflicted by the reformers. Not all have the same level of destruction on them. Some images have just had the faces lightly scratched over; in others the damage is much greater. I recall seeing a seven sacrament font in which all of the carvings were chiseled away, leaving just the ghostly shadow of what was there before, At Loddon, across the county, faces looking upwards at Jesus during the ascension have had their eyes punched out. Some destruction by the reformers appears almost half hearted; in others the onlooker could almost still feel the hatred! The destruction here is quite bad with faces mostly scratched away completely.

   Interestingly, on a panel illustrating St Anne instructing the Virgin Mary to read, the face of St Anne is scratched away almost entirely, curiously with the exception of one eye, whilst Mary's face is just very lightly scratched.  This reminded me of a seven sacrament font seen at Little Walsinghan a day or two earlier. The eighth panel depicts the crucifixion. It is interesting to see that the cross is bare, Jesus having been removed. John, standing to the right of the cross as we look at it is without head, but the depiction of the Virgin Mary is pretty much untouched! Fascinating, the mindset of the reformers.


It was good to see this church again; open welcoming and with much of interest. It was a few minutes until the Coastliner was due. In the meantime it was a case of enjoying the silence and the picturesque countryside. I find this area of Norfolk particularly pleasant with Houghton being the jewel in the crown. The rainbow had just about cleared as the Coastliner turned up. It had stayed dry for an is good!

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