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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk

St Mary, Appleton

Appleton

Appleton Appleton

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  St Mary, Appleton

We are among the sheep meadows of the Sandringham estate, alive with the bleating of lambs and the birdsong heralding yet another spring on this bright, breezy day in April 2023. Appleton is an ancient decayed parish, noted White's Directory of Norfolk in 1844, with only two farm-houses, two cottages and about 700 acres of land. Not much has changed since. The church is a picturesque sight on a crest above the road between Flitcham and West Newton. The round tower survives up to the lower part of the bell windows. It must have been a handsome tower when it was complete, the flint rubble banded in carstone, and it was probably an early one given the arched lancets, perhaps even mid-11th Century. A south aisle was added to the Norman church in the 14th Century. The aisle has gone but the surviving arcade is elegant. Curiously, at the end of the medieval period a porch appears to have been built directly into the aisle. Or had the aisle been demolished, and the rest of the arcade blocked up first?

This must have been a desolate place before Queen Victoria bought the vast and poverty-stricken Sandringham estate for her son the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, and he got to work improving it. However, Appleton has had a more colourful history before that. The Lords of the Manor here were the Paston family, but their large mansion burnt down in 1707 and was never rebuilt, a date which appears to coincide with the abandonment of the church. By the middle of the 19th Century there were just two farms in the parish, but the incumbent of Appleton was still provided with 8 a year, about 1,600 in today's money. The income was enjoyed by the Rev W Allen of Narborough, who performs divine service in the ruins once a year, reported White. I doubt that still happens now, but even today it's said that the ghosts of medieval streets and even of houses can be made out from the air after a light dusting of snow in the field beside the church.

Simon Knott, April 2023

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Appleton Appleton
Appleton Appleton: straight up Appleton

 
   
               
                 

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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk