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Church Post Code  PE13 4LF

Open to visitors

Visited November 2020

Redundant : cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust


Early November 2020, and it was two days before England went in to a second lockdown. I was offered the chance to head in to Norfolk for the day, so work was rescheduled (Tuesday’s work rescheduled to Saturday just in case any of my customers are reading this) and we took the chance to travel for the last time before lockdown started.

   We started the day though in Cambridgeshire, visiting the church of St John the Baptist at Parson Drove. The church here is redundant and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. This visit is covered in full on one of my other sites so if you would like to see this please click on the photograph of the church opposite and you will be taken there; the page opening in a different window.


Church Post Code  PE34 3DG

Open to visitors

We crossed the border in to Norfolk; aiming for the Wiggenhalls; four villages very close together some six miles to the south of Kings Lynn. We were aiming first for the church of St Mary Magdalen which is set against the west bank of the River Great Ouse.

The village here is long and straggling with the church to be found at the northern end, the River Great Ouse close by to the east. The village here is not to be confused with Wiggenhall St Mary the Virgin, which is a little further off to the north. The sign on entering the village simply says ‘Magdalen’.


The church here dates mainly from the 15th century, but the tower is older, with the lower parts dating from the 13th century with the belfry stage dating to the 14th century.

The substantial three stage tower is heavily buttressed and battlemented, with church clock facing out to the south with stair turret to the south west corner. The two storey red brick tower also has a stair turret to the west leading to the upper room.

The nave is perpendicular, with four three light windows; the clerestory stage has five three light windows but with the wall being rendered, gargoyles looking out from between the windows. Two stair turrets at the east end of the nave would have led up to the rood loft, with a central Sanctus bellcote in between them. Moving around to the east a little, evidence of a previous pre clerestory roofline can be seen on the east wall of the nave

The visitor enters the church from a gate to the south, with the path leading to the south porch. To the left of the path is the village war memorial which dates from 1920. On this visit the path was edged with poppies in readiness for the following Sunday’s Remembrance Day service, which wouldn't have taken place as the second national covid lockdown came in to effect a few days before Remembrance Sunday.


The church was open to visitors, which was good to see in days that were very challenging.  A sign on the notice boars indicated that the church had been open for private prayer from the first day that they could reopen after the first lockdown. There was hand sanitiser on entry and all visitors were to sign a book with address and phone number so that all could be contacted in the event of a covid outbreak at the church. 


The light quality was superb: it was an absolute joy to be able to be here at this time. The arcades to north and south are each of five bays, with octagonal piers and polygonal capitals. The chancel arch is tall narrow and pointed, with doors on either side of the arch containing stairs leading up to the rood loft. Two corresponding doors can be seen higher up giving access to the rood itself; a fascinating glimpse back to what things would have been like in pre reformation days.

Looking back to the west, there is a faint outline on the west wall, showing the previous roofline before the clerestory was added. Against the west wall there is the remains of the medieval rood screen, which consists of the four evangelists and their associated symbols. An angel, the symbol for St Matthew, shows signs of damage, I daresay dating from the Reformation, with the face being rubbed out.

Moving in to the chancel, the altar was beautifully lit by the morning sun. The east window is of three lights and clear glass; the medieval double sedilia and piscina occupy their usual places against the south wall of the chancel.  The north wall of the chancel is dominated by the church organ. This is a ‘busy’ chancel!

The church here has a collection of medieval stained glass, to be found up in the tracery in the windows of the north aisle. Dating from the 15th century these are of great interest but certainly not easily identifiable. Included in the collection are some Bishops, St Helen who is crowned and who carries a cross, an angel holding a spear and an exquisite depiction of a female figure with long golden hair.


The church grounds are well maintained and of interest, with two 18th century gravestones having a Grade II Listing in their own right. A few of the stones have the deaths head, a carving of a human skull. These were used as memento mori symbols, designed to remind the onlooker that Man is mortal and will die. Therefore, live a good Christian life, trust in God and do not be caught short when your own time comes, and in days of low life expectancy it could be later than you think.

On one gravestone, alongside the skull, an angel looks at the book of life in which the events of the deceased’s life are recorded; an anchor close by is an often used symbol of the Christian faith.  

A gravestone close by has the skull alongside a cross and trumpet. The cross needs no explanation but the trumpet is an often used symbol of the resurrection; a testament as to the faith of the deceased. This stone also has a stack of books which has toppled over. A stack of books symbolises knowledge and the fact that it has fallen obviously means something, perhaps the sudden ending of a life!



Church Post Code PE34 3HF

Open to visitors - Ruins

We moved on to Wiggenhall St Peter, a ruined church which stands on the east bank of the Great Ouse, protected from the river by a raised flood bank.

This is a relatively recent ruin, with the church still being used for worship during the first part of the 20th century. The roof was removed and we are left with a roofless, but substantially intact ruin, which is looked after by the Norfolk Churches Trust. I was talking with a lady connected with a ruined church near to Peterborough last year and she told me that the roof on her village church, at Denton, was taken off soon after the church was closed to worship. Apparently, this is what they used to do and I suspect the same happened here.


The tower here dates from the 13th century, with the rest of the structure dating from the 15th century.  On visiting, I was able to freely wander around but the area under tower arch was cordoned off as being unsafe; perhaps the tower being struck by lightning didn’t help in that respect.

Today, we have a square battlemented tower, with gargoyles looking out from the four corners. There was a south aisle here, which was pulled down and bricked up in the 1840’s, the outlines of the arches still visible. The east window would have been a fine thing, sadly all gone now with the exception of a small amount of tracery high up. An aumbry can still be seen against the north wall of the chancel; and there may have been a surviving sedilia and piscina against the south wall of the chancel, encroaching ivy covering up what might have been there.

Stone heads look out from the walls of the nave; a bearded figure with long flowing hair looks upwards towards heaven.

There are a scattering of gravestones to be seen, including a solitary cross still standing to the east of the chancel. It was quiet and peaceful as you would expect, but very windy on the bank; again as you would expect. It is always sad to see a church in ruins; but this is a fine ruin nonetheless.



Church Post Code PE34 3EH

Closed to visitors

Redundant : cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust


   The third of the Wiggenhall’s on the list was St Mary The Virgin, as opposed to St Mary Magdalene! This is another church maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust, the church here having closed for worship in 1981, passing in to the hands of the CCT the following year. This church had yet to open up following the first lockdown. It was a shame to see it closed, but it brings home that every church that is open at all other times are open through the efforts of a small army of people, with some at risk possibly during those challenging times. Perhaps the keyholder here, and other places, don’t feel that they want to come out and that is to be respected.  The fabulous monument with Knight and his lady at prayer, and the carved medieval carvings of Saints on the bench end will have to wait for another day.

The church here is set back from the main road, obscured by trees; standing isolated with just the vicarage and a medieval manor house for company. The rest of the village migrated south at some point back in time.

 The visitor walks up a grass path towards the south porch, ancient ivy covered gravestones to either side, the sound of birdsong constant.  A tranquil scene, and one that would probably have remained unchanged for the faithful making their way to this church over hundreds of years.

There has been a church here since around 1230, but only three doorways survive from that early church. The church that we see today dates mainly from the 15th century.

The west tower is heavily buttressed with the nave and chancel walls being rendered. Finely carved gargoyles look on from the four corners of the tower. One in particular caught my eye. This was a mouth puller, with mouth pulled wide open in a medieval gesture of insult. There are plenty of these about. What caught the eye was the fact that it was, shall we say, anatomically correct in other areas. I feel that the person who carved this should have a long hard look at themselves!

Over the top of the south porch is a fine sundial, dated 1742 and dedicated to Church Warden Joseph Rockley. This has on it the script 'Tempus Fugit' time flies. This passes over the same message that the images of mortality did on the gravestone at Magdalen seen earlier, Man is mortal and will die. Script rather than symbols but the message is the same : Be Prepared!



Church Post Code  PE34 3EY

Closed to visitors (open for 4 hours twice a week at that time)


Final in our tour of of Wiggenhall churches before we headed off to the villages around the Sandringham estate was Wiggenhall St Germans.The church here was closed when we arrived, but was open for two four hour periods a week for private prayer.  St Germans parish contains the ruined church of St Peter and the redundant church of St Mary The Virgin within its boundaries.  

After the isolation of the previous two churches, the church of St German can be found in a relatively populated area of this fairly large village, with the church again being built on the left bank of the River Great Ouse.

As with other churches locally the tower is older than the rest of the structure; the west tower dating from the 13th century with the rest of the church mainly from the 15th century. A remembrance flag was flying from the slim, pinnacled and battlemented tower. Again, as with nearby St Mary, the high clerestory stage is rendered, with Sanctus bellcote at the east end of the nave. The church is heavily buttressed throughout. A wall plaque features a winged skull; yet another symbol of Mortality for the onlooker to take note of. The skull having wings symbolises the flight of the soul towards Heaven.

This is definitely a church to revisit at some point as it houses one of the most important collections of wooden carvings to be seen in the county. These date from around 1500 and include a set depicting the Seven Deadly Sins with the subjects shown in the jaws of a large fish, which symbolises the jaws of hell; in the same way that the condemned in doom paintings are thrown in to hell shown in the firm of a serpents mouth.


We left the Wiggenhalls and headed off towards villages in the Sandringham estate. The following day, November 5th, the country was locked down again for the second time due to rising covid cases. This time the lockdown was for four weeks rather than three months, ending on December 2nd, where the lockdown would be replaced by a three tier system of local restrictions. The camera was again retired for the required period. The challenging year of 2020 continued, but it was nearing its end and the majority of people I daresay couldn't wait to see it go!

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