The county of Norfolk contains the greatest concentration of medieval churches in the world. From its tiny headwaters at Bodham/Baconsthorpe to its spill into the sea behind the shingle spit of Blakeney Point, the river Glaven runs through one of the most beautiful valleys in England. The churches of this Glaven Valley are Blakeney (pictured here) Cley, Glandford, Letheringsett, Wiveton; substantial churches occupying a compact area, super-sized compared to their flinty village surrounds – how so? These churches are material witnesses in their surrounding landscape, architectural containers storing histories of past greatness.
13C Norfolk and the parishes of Wiveton, Cley and Blakeney enjoyed vast wealth as the collective ‘Blakeney Haven’ became one of the greatest ports in England. Wool trade prospered with the Low Countries, monies channeled into great church building projects. Cley and Wiveton silted up in the 17th Century, allowed to do so as grazing became more profitable than the wool trade, their churches now stranded far behind the tideline. This image is taken from Cley Church across what was once Wiveton Harbour to Wiveton Church in the distance. The navigable channel was deepened at Blakeney in the early 1800’s to accommodate Packet ships en route to Hull and London thus its quay still exists.
A day with rain forecast? Pack a picnic and go explore the Glaven 5. You may encounter wedding flowers. Especial luck (and a bride with the right idea) will see Glandford in all its cute quaint dark wood glory, festooned aisle-edged and porch-over with cow parsley or general umbelifers. Simple, inexpensive, perfect. If I’m lucky, I’ll post it here for you to see the effect.
Read, research, take assistance to help you unlock the human histories stored in these majestic buildings.
Got an IPAD? Tune in to Simon Knott’s Norfolk Churches site as you go.
Don’t miss the Blakeney Area Historical Society at its village hall.
Pay a visit to a Norfolk library and borrow a good book such as ‘The Glaven Ports’ by Jonathan Hooten ISBN 0951832816, 9780951832813.
Its 13-15C dimensions are comparable to a major British city church, its seven-stepped lancet chancel a gem of early English architecture.
Tea and coffee always available, a mark of welcome to both pilgrim and stranger.
The present cathedral-like building is 14C but occupies older site. It is the biggest, grandest and most expensive of the Glaven 5. Master Mason William Ramsey and his son die in Black Death so wing remains ruined.
Cute Glandford in ruins by 1730, rebuilt as a memorial to his mother in 19C by Sir Alfred Jodrell who had inherited the Bayfield Estate. Its clock tower a carillon of 12 bells, a tune on the hour, one is a carol, quite out of context in August!
Sports the only round tower in the valley, erected in 1086. It had to patiently wait till 1284 to get a church added. Across the road on the river is the only working mill left in Norfolk.
Rebuilt with wealth in the 15C. Valley between it and Cley in Middle Ages navigable water, marks from mooring ropes still etched into its East side. This church has the bells, a ring of six, all inscribed.
Images of Blakeney church interior and all wedding flowers courtesy of happy wedding people and Sheringham-based Chris Taylor Photo. Full time photographer and lifeboat crewman to boot. In focus currently on his website is Formula 1, the Olympic Torch, landscapes, the lifeboat. Chris sees the shot like no other. Important but even more so when your ‘big day’ is looking likely to be wet!