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

St Mary, South Wootton

South Wooton: rather northern

Read the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to see them enlarged.
the narthex at the west end mausoleum, now a vestry from the north-west

    St Mary, South Wootton
entrance from the narthex   Having just come from Gaywood, a mile or so off, it was such a pleasure to visit a Kings Lynn suburban church that was actually open and welcoming. This part of Lynn has quite a rural feel, and St Mary's carstone and brick detailing give it a sort of northern feel, quite un-East Anglian. In the car park across the road, a tiny portakabin proclaimed itself 'South Wootton Parish Council', like a declaration of independence.

The tower of St Mary was rebuilt in the 1890s, at the time that the large mausoleum was built to the north of the chancel - this is now the vestry. But you enter through a large narthex porch of 1985 - this is an excellent addition to the church, with a west gallery up a flight of stairs. You walk through an open arch in what was the south-west corner of the nave into a small, light church.

Your first sight is one of those rugged, primitive Norman fonts you get in this part of Norfolk. It is square, and roughly hewn, with nine pillars and a monstrous face at each corner. The sides have a tablet shape in relief on the sides, which is curiously regular.

South Wooton font South Wooton font South Wooton font South Wooton font

The nave was substantially refurbished at the time the tower was rebuilt, the roof being done in a hammerbeam style. There are two curious, stubby transepts; if they are as old as the chancel then they would be 14th century, but Pevsner wondered if they were actually 18th century, as their style suggests. That to the north contains the organ; the southern one has a window with curiously naive coloured glass depicting the Annunciation and the Nativity flanking the Blessed Virgin and Child. I wondered if they were the work of a local.

 Annunciation - "Who? Me?" Blessed Virgin and Child Nativity

In the sanctuary is a large tombchest, commemorating Sir Thomas Winde, who died in 1603. Curiously, it is set into the north chancel wall as if it is an Easter sepulchre; obviously, it is seventy years too late for that, but perhaps Sir Thomas had a long memory of what was fitting.

The furnishings of the chancel and nave are all in simple wood designs, presumably of the 1890s. The walls are white, with a little devotional icon in a modern piscina in the south tansept.

Generally, there is a nice feeling here; I liked this church a lot. It struck me that it was well-suited to modern forms of worship and hospitality, but still has the feel of a traditional village parish church - ironic, perhaps, in a suburb.

Looking back west, the 1985 gallery has a 19th century frontage. It came from the closed church of St Matthew in Norwich. Up in the gallery, which is kept locked, there is an extraordinary hearse, dated 1611, with scriptural inscriptions. You'll need to make an appointment to see it.

  South Wooton Parish Council

Simon Knott, October 2005


looking east north transept south transept
1603 tombchest looking west font cover sanctuary

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