A Very Special Easter - nearly 150 years ago


Whilst Easter is always an important time in the church calendar, the Easter of 1870 was a particularly important one in the history of St. Mary's church. Over the years the church had fallen into a very dilapidated state and the then vicar, Rev. John Edward Cooper, decided that a major renovation was required.

St Mary's church before the restoration of 1870 - engraving by John Berney Ladbrooke, around 1820 

Cooper launched a restoration fund which raised more than a thousand pounds for the project. The church was then closed for a period of ten months and under the guidance of Mr. John Pearce, an architect from Norwich, the chancel was restored to its original style and later additions were removed. A new chancel arch was installed, the external walls were given a new flint facing, and the old thatched roof of the church was replaced with ribbed Staffordshire tiles.

The grand re-opening was held on Easter Tuesday, 19th April 1870 with services in the morning (11 am) and the afternoon (4.30 pm). The Norfolk News reported the event in detail:

"The event was favoured with fine early summer weather and the attendance of county clergy, gentry and parishioners was very large. The re-opening was quite an event in the parish as indicated by the holiday appearance of the labourers. The sermon in the morning was preached by the Lord Bishop of Norwich, after which more than 100 invited guests sat down for an elegant lunch in the nearby school room [now our village hall]. In the evening the Rev. Cooper invited members of the choir and all the old people of the village to a substantial supper."

Despite John Cooper's magnificent restoration programme, 100 years later the church was once more in a very poor state and it was officially declared redundant on 1st March 1985. By 2005 it was completely overgrown but thanks to the remarkable efforts of Graham and May Prior and the Friends of St. Mary's the church has again been beautifully restored and can be enjoyed by all of us. 

Mike Merrick and John Webster