Brief History of our Church

Martham is privileged to have the largest and most splendid of the parish churches of the Flegg area of east Norfolk, England. In the late nineteenth century it was dubbed the "Cathedral of the Fleggs" by a visiting Bishop who was most impressed by it’s size and splendour.

The tower at a height of 100ft is reached by well over 100 steps, with a small spirelet on top and a clock on the south face. It has a ring of six bells which were restored and re-hung in 2000 as part of the millennium project. The present church which was built between about 1377 and 1450, is a fine example of early perpendicular architecture including a hammerbeam roof with 11 pairs of carved angels. It replaced an older round-towered church, the footings of which were discovered in 1999. At the west end of the nave stands a beautifully sculpted fifteenth century seven sacrament font. The south door which still has its original carving and iron work is protected by its porch with vaulted roof and a parvise room above. By the outside of the windows of the parvise are two empty niches, their contents probably being removed during the Reformation.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the church was in a serious state of dilapidation, requiring major restoration including the demolition and rebuilding of the chancel. The work was carried out by the architect Phillip Boyce and took place between the years 1855 to 1861. The design for the chancel was in the French Gothic style and in memory of the Rev. Jonathon Dawson. His monument on the north side of the chancel is in the style of an Easter Sepulchre. (Sir John Betjeman was full of admiration for it when he visited our Church.) The hammerbeam roof of the nave was also restored. The surviving panels of medieval 15th century stained glass panels (of the Norwich School) were re-assembled and placed in the east windows of the aisles. The magnificent east window of the chancel has stained glass by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. Ancient box pews and a three decker pulpit were removed and new bench seating installed but with several 15th century poppyheads adorning the bench ends of the nave. The medieval door beside the chancel leads to stairs which once led to a rood loft.

Among the possessions of St. Mary's are a silver cup and paten of 1567 marked "The Townshyp of Martham". There is also a parish chest made circa 1300 with its lid carved from a single tree-trunk. Maybe it dates from the older round-towered church before 1377 but it is certainly older than the present church. The only remaining Mediaeval heart-shaped brass has the inscription "Post tenebras spero lucem Laus deo: neo" [After the shadows I hope for light. Praise be to God - memorial to ROBERT ALEN, the priest and vicar who died 1487/8. The parish registers and records, now with the Norfolk Record Office, go back to 1558.

Memorial slabs to a former churchwarden - Christopher Burraway & his wife Alice are now standing against the south wall inside the church. They are of interest to visitors for the inscription, part of which reads - "and theer Lyes Alice Who By her life was my sister, my mistres, my mother and my wife...". There are many memorials, both inside and outside the church to the wealthy landowning family of Rising, who lived in the area for many years.

There are two side chapels, both of which were restored and rehallowed in 1969. The north aisle chapel is dedicated to St. John and has its own altar. The south aisle chapel has been developed as a prayer corner dedicated to St Blide(or Blida or Blyth) the mother of St Walstan of Bawburgh. It is thought that she was buried here in the church in the late 11th century, as evidenced by many bequests of money - one as late as 1522. The prayer corner has an interesting Burning Bush Candle stand for votive offerings, added with the general refurbishment and re-dedication of 2004.

A modern ringing gallery, kitchen, meeting rooms and toilet were constructed in the tower as a millennium project in 2000, when the organ was moved from the floor of the tower to its present position in the northwest corner of the nave. The organ was originally erected in the base of the tower by public subscription in 1871. The organ builders were Foster and Andrews of Hull.

Seven Millennium banners on the Nave pillars tell the story of local Christianity.

Thank you to everyone who helped to put this page together - Tony Peake.