Our Lady St Mary
'The ancient village contains one of East Anglia's finest Churches'
The Village of South Creake is situated near the North Coast of Norfolk and contains one of the finest Churches to be found in East Anglia. There has been a Church on this site for over a thousand years, although most of what is visible today is from Norman origin dating from the 12th century. The first Incumbent of the Church was John de Sudcrec in 1152 with the Patron being William, Bishop of Norwich. By 1221 it was under the control of the Great Prior and Convent of Castle Acre, who's influence was to last until 1540, apart from a brief period in 1286 when it came under the King. The correct title for the church is The Assumption of Blessed Mary. This name was often used in Anglo-Saxon churches as at nearby West Barsham, where a Saxon church remains that has never been rebuilt and gives a good idea what the original building would have looked like. Two pieces of stonework survive from the 12th century period: One forms the riser of one of the Belfry stairs, the other on the outside wall to the right of the 2nd window from the left, bottom row, in the above picture.
Both the villages of North and South Creake are situated beside an ancient small stream that runs through a shallow valley which rises to higher ground on the East and West. Dr Ekwall writes in the Oxford Dictionary of Place names that the name Creake is apparently identical with " Crayke " - a rock or ridge - equally possible is that the name is derived from the Saxon word " Crik " gained from the stream itself. Locally there has been found evidence of Roman Occupation, and also, half a mile SW of the church are the Burrow Dykes, believed to be a Saxon earthwork. The road leading in that direction is called due to a Battle there between the Saxons and the Danes.
Towards the end of the 13th Century the chancel was built in largely its present form, although most of the windows are later. In about 1330 the tower and nave were built and at the same time the windows at the West and East ends of the isles were added, showing the architect designing them was familiar with work going on in the building of the choir of Ely Cathedral and Snettisham Church. For the rest of the century further small additions were added.
The people of South Creake were not satisfied with the Church and soon after 1400 new work was undertaken to improve the Church. The nave was rebuilt along with the Arcade pillars. The very fine vestry on the North side was also added at this time. Evidence of some of the funds available for this extensive rebuilding can found in the will of John Buckenham dated at 1412. It was at this time, during the rebuilding, that the Hammer beams were added with the beautiful Angels resting on the wall posts supported by corbel brackets.
The magnificent Angels were added to celebrate the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and hold shields with the arms of; Edward, Black Prince of Wales, the three crowns of St Edmund of East Anglia, and instruments of Jesus' Passion, and musical instruments. The Angels were repaired in 1958 and are similar to those found in its sister Church, also St Mary's, in North Creake although these have yet to be repaired.
The Isle roofs are also 15 century and have carved spandrels. The roof in the south isle has animals and birds. The pulpit and rood screen were also installed at this time - the screen dating from 1400. It has lost most of its original painting but does possess doors, an unusual feature. The purpose of all this rebuilding was to not only vastly improve the Church, but flood the whole Church with light. I think they have done their job splendidly, the light from these many windows is diffused into the interior giving it a very warm, welcome feel.
This beautiful church has some charming secrets to offer the visitor and I shall give details on only a few of them.
The Font. There are few to be found like this anywhere. It is one of a small group of Seven Sacraments Fonts dating 1460. It retains some of its original colour and stands on two decorated steps. If you look to the roof you can still see the original pulley still in place, for raising the cover. The present cover is Victorian.
The Pulpit. This is considered to date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and is in the style known as Hexagonal Goblet. In the 1920's it suffered at the hands of a vicar who had it put into a corner. It was sent to Walsingham to be restored and then realized that the restorer was removing all the original medieval colours. It was taken away and placed in its present position in 1932.
Monumental Brasses. Most of these were stolen in 1754. A tinker, David Dent, was charged with this theft, and pleaded guilty a year later at Thetford. He was released by the Bench as he had spent a year in Jail awaiting trial. The result of this vandalism can be seen in the nave, where there is a memorial to the Norton family. These were the figures of Richard and Christina, who died in 1470, and also their son John. It is gathered that the son, John, a clergyman, had them made as a memorial to his Parents so as to include himself.
The Tower. This is rather too short to be in proportion to the rest of the church; either it was not completed or has been lowered. The Church accounts show that there was once a small steeple.
Additional site Information
Open - All year round.
Entry - Free.
Telephone - 01328-823433. Revd.Andrew Thomson.
Os Map 132 ; ref TF 858360
Our Lady St Mary's Church
Our Lady St Mary's Church lies in the County of Norfolk, Approx. 6miles NW of Fakenham off the B1355. 15 miles NE of Last months site, Castle Rising.
There is a good parking around the Church but respect should be given to local residents and access to their properties.
The Church of Our Lady serves the local community and regular services take place which visitors are welcome to join. Like all rural Churches, donations to maintain the upkeep of the building are always welcome, I ask, if you visit this beautiful Church, leave a small donation so others in future may see and enjoy this very special place. Guides and Postcards are available at the entrance inside the Church.
I found my visit to this beautiful Church to be a most peaceful experience. The day I visited was a beautiful sunny August day and the light from the many windows just flooded the whole Church. People have worshipped here for many hundreds of years and its beauty and history will always remain dear to me. I shall look forward to my next visit in the not too distant future.
Special thanks to Revd Andrew Thomson for his permission to feature this Church.
Other Local information
The local area has a great wealth of medieval sites, all easily visited in a day with the aid of transport. Some are listed below.
St Mary the Virgin Church - North Creake. Founded in 1300 contains the wonderful brass of Sir William Calthorpes dating from 1495, although he is buried in Norwich. The Church also contains similar Angels to those found in South Creake's St Mary's. One mile to the north are also the remains of the old Augustinian Creake Abbey which remains are in very good condition, managed by English Heritage. Entrance is Free.
Castle Acre - A Village on the ancient Peddars' Way, with a huge Norman castle mound and green, entered through a 13th century gate. Also to be found here are the remains of the Priory with some fine 12th century arcading. Managed by English Heritage, Admission £2-75.* Recommended * There are also painted panels in the 13th century church of St James. Also featured on this web site,
Sculthorpe - Manor Farm. The medieval house built by Sir Robert Knolles, one of Edward III and the Black Prince's famous Captains. He led the routiers of the Free Companies which caused such havoc during the Hundred Years War. He also took part in the infamous 'Combat of the Thirty' and was captured by the French at Ploermel in 1351.
Little Walsingham - A Village with tall timbered houses in a woodland setting. A medieval place of pilgrimage noted for its Shrine of Virgin Mary, founded in the 11th century. Augustinian friary and Franciscan priory added later; priory ruins approached through 15th century gateway in the High Street.
It is also possible to take a tour of the Village and several other tours which take in some attractive villages and sites, for the most up to date information here is a link to their site; http://www.broadland.com/walsinghamtours.html
Information was obtained from -
The Revd.Andrew Thomson - Our Lady St Mary's Church, South Creake, Norfolk.
Our Lady St Mary - Guide by Simon Cotton 1984, Based on a previous guide by
Revd CLS Linnell and Revd. Fr. Brian Findlay.
Our Lady St Mary - Guide by Graham Pooley 1995.
Abbeys & Priories of Medieval England - Colin Platt.
The Crecy War - Lt-Col Alfred H. Burne.
The Hundred years War - Desmond Seward
The Domesday Book - Edited by Thomas Hinde
The Readers Digest - A Touring Guide to Britain.
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