Hemsby – St Mary the Virgin Church

There was a sign outside the church saying that St Mary the Virgin in Hemsby was open. Although that wasn’t entirely true. Indeed, it wasn’t true at all, it was shut. The church was built in the early fourteenth century by the monks of Norwich Cathedral (and apparently some of the tracery is the same as in the north cloister of the cathedral) although it’s all a little utilitarian for my taste. I couldn’t see inside, but George Plunkett has a photo of the interior from 1932. Other than the changed roofline, which was likely just a switch from the former thatched roofing, there are no blocked doors, moved windows or the like.

I liked the porch, this had some more decorative elements and was executed to a relatively grand standard.

The church has remained relatively untouched over the centuries, although the Victorians did restore it in 1867, and there was also some work on the tower in 1974. There was a tour of St. Mary’s in 1867 by those interested in church history, and it was pointed out there was an hourglass on display which had once been attached to the pulpit. This had been introduced in accordance with the wishes of Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to discourage the rather more prolix of preachers. I’m not sure that the church still has this, but I have to say that it’s a good idea.

The chancel window and there are apparently two thirteenth century coffin slabs in the churchyard, which I managed to entirely miss. There likely wasn’t a Saxon church at this site as is common in many areas, and it’s not entirely clear if there was anything here before the current early fourteenth century building. This was though an area that was visited frequently by the Vikings and they kept raiding the coastline on a regular basis, which I’m sure considerably annoyed the locals.