There isn’t much to Shingham and it has been a little subsumed into Beachemwell now, but its glorious church has remained. The above photo was taken from the main road (I say main road, but it’s not exactly the Las Vegas Strip) and I’ve no idea why the church is stuck back there. The land in the foreground wasn’t part of the church’s land even a century ago and was just part of the field.
It’s not known when the church was built, some histories suggests the thirteenth and others suggest the fourteenth centuries.
There’s something about this beautiful south door which to my very untrained eye just feels like the church is twelfth or thirteenth century. I hadn’t realised at the time that John Sell Cotman greatly appreciated this door and it’s pleasing to see the arch is still as he drew it nearly 200 years ago, with nothing dropped off.
The church was redundant by the mid-nineteenth century, as there simply weren’t enough people in the local area to support it. The thatched roof had mostly fallen in by the late nineteenth century and the walls were in a bad state of repair by this time. However, there was a saviour, money was raised at the beginning of the twentieth century to repair the church, to put an iron roof on, to re-plaster the walls and to fix the broken floor. All of the work was completed in just five weeks in early 1904, an impressive effort.
Despite the restoration in 1904, not much had ever really changed with the church. The interior had been modernised a bit, but it retained its seventeenth-century pulpit and communion rails, as well as having some medieval benches. Unfortunately, the church is nearly never open now, so it’s hard to see inside. But, very little was ever added to this church, so although the roof isn’t really entirely in keeping with the structure, it feels like little else has changed here over the last millennium.
A correspondent for the Illustrated London News visited the church in 1892, commenting that “in living memory, the parish clerk was a woman, who led the responses, gave out the hymns, knocked the boys on the head during the service when necessary, and in the absence of the rector, prepared the young parishioners for confirmation”. No wonder the boys stopped going…..