Hassingham – St. Mary’s Church


We visited this church at the end of a walk a few days ago, just as the weather started to look a little bleak. Perhaps that added to the majestic beauty of this rather remote church though. There was probably some sort of Saxon religious building here, although the structure now dates primarily to the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.

Some of the church looks modern, but this is because of a serious fire in the late 1960s which meant that nearly everything inside was lost and the roof was also destroyed. Fortunately, the situation at Bixley was avoided and the church was rebuilt, but this time no longer with a thatched roof.

The round tower is from the twelfth century if the listed building record is accurate, and they usually are, although it just looks a bit older to me. The top bit of the tower, which I’m not entirely sure fits in, was added in the fifteenth century.

Wikipedia notes, so it must be true, that William Haslam was the vicar here in the 1860s and he managed to be converted into a more evangelical approach by listening to his own sermon. That’s one persuasive vicar…..

There is also the beginning of an interesting story which was repeated in the Norfolk News in 1888 from times long past, which is that the notorious criminal Bartholomew de Devonshyre killed Adam Wyre in Hemblington and then rushed to Hassingham to seek sanctuary at St. Mary’s Church. Unfortunately, there was no mass media at the time and details on this story are somewhat hard to find.

Not relating to the church, but instead to Broad Farm opposite, there was a huge invasion of coypu in 1960. The local farmer, Wesley Key, said “we catch coypus at the rate of fifty a week, but they still multiply as fast as ever”. Fortunately for the farmer, these have now been eradicated from the British countryside, but I have visions of the coypu over-running the church as well…..