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

St Margaret, Sea Palling

Sea Palling: clean and bright on a sunny day

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old tower... ...restored chancel

    St Margaret, Sea Palling
1953 floods memorial   Eastwards from the graveyard here you see the long, low green sea wall, holding back the murderous North Sea. On this day in July 2006, the wide, blue expanse was as still as glass, but you don't have to live in East Anglia for long to know what terrible things the sea can do.

On the dark night of January 31st, 1953, the waves broke through all down this coast. Hundreds died in the eastern counties, but such large numbers hide individual tragedies, often in tiny communities. Sea Palling was just a small grouping of cottages, but it lost seven people, four from the same family, three of them children. A small plaque remembers them in the church, and a harrowing account of what happened that night in Sea Palling can be read on the Eastern Daily Press website.

But it was hard to feel sad in this bright, lovely graveyard. The south side of the church has been planted with large garden shrubs, which doesn't sound as attractive as it was. I love to see, and smell, Buddleia in a graveyard, and quite obviously so did the butterflies dancing around it. The church tower is an early one, with the feel of the 13th century about it, but this is an otherwise much restored building, and inevitably so, because it was ruinous at the time of the Commonwealth, and was patched up after the Restoration in the late 17th century. What you see today outside looks pretty much all Victorian, but the date 1674 is still above the south porch.

Inside, the church is clean, bright and simply furnished, without any outstanding early survivals. As at several churches along this coast, the feel is overwhelmingly of the early years of the 20th century. There are two blocked windows in the west wall of the nave, either side of the tower. On the north side of the chancel there is what may be a banner stave locker. The font is a good one of the 14th century, but perhaps most memorable here are the mission boards from the Sea Palling lifeboat. These are more usually displayed in lifeboat stations. Given the recent history of Sea Palling, it was moving and appropriate to see them here.


Simon Knott, August 2006

looking east looking west modern roof lifeboat boards
font sanctuary lifeboat boards

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