Wretham: St Ethelbert, Wretham

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This lovingly cared for Victorian church buildiing is the third on the site - the others were early Engish and Norman - and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015.

Designed by Scottish born architect William Armstrong, it was built between 1864-65 after a reorganisation of the east and west parts of the Wretham estate meant that the Norman building was too small for the village congregation.

As a result, the local estate owners, the Wyrley Birch family, built a new village school to stand opposite and endowed the rebuilding of a new nave and tower and the squire;snd son in law,, the Rev James Park Whalley, paid for the new chancel..

A beautiful example of Victorian church style, St Ethelbert has a number of extra features of interest, not least the unusual saddleback top to its tower. Inside these include an ornate memorial on the south wall to the son of a later squire killed in France during WWI, as well as the art work of the Rev Whalley. Much travelled in Europe, he was a lover of the works of Rennaissance artists.His work can be see in the wall paintings over three walls in the chancel, on the Grade II listed James Corps organ, where he painted the casework decoration, and especially the hand painting of the intricate wooden carved font cover, which alone took him 18 months to comlpete.

In the north aisle, there is a collection of material relating to the Czech and Polish air crew who flew during WW2 from East Wretham airfield, now almost indistinguishable from the surrounding fields and nature reserve. In the north east corner of the churchyard are the graves of 12 Czech and two Polish airmen, cared for by the church for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They are the focus of a major memorial service four days before Remembrance Sunday each year. 

Two WWI graves sit west of the church and there is a memorial commemorating villagers who fell in different wars outside the church gate. Details of all this and more are to be found in a full colour 72 page guide to the church, written in 2010 and based on the writings of the Rev James Park Whalley.

The church, which has its own car park, is normally kept locked but both church wardens live nearby and the building can be opened readily on request. Their details are on the porch gate. Two services are held each month, Holy Communion on the first Sunday and Morning Prayer on the third, as well as services on major festivals. All of these use the Book of Common Prayer and King James Bible..

Normal attendance from the small village still exceeds 30 on most occasions and visitors are warmly welcomned.. The church is conscious of its role in the village and hosts a range of activities during the year which bring people and visitors together..

Parish boundary view Bird's eye view

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Mrs Eileen Kitson
4, Windmill Lane,
East Wretham,
IP24 1QR
01953 498 609 (Church warden) or 07909 982 561 (Eileen Kitson)

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Village church extends Open Sundays. Greatly encouraged by a 2016 experiment, the Victorian gem which is St. Ethelbert at East Wretham, will be open for four Sundays in August and two in September. Normally the little church, with its wall, organ and font cover paintings by the Rev James P.Whalley, Rector at its 1864-65 rebuilding and its display relating to the Czech and Polish war graves in the churchyard, is closed to visitors, although it can be opened swiftly on request. The church will be open and manned by congregation members on August 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th, as well as on September 3rd and 10th, from 10.30am to 4pm. LIght refreshment and plenty of parking is available each time at the church, which is just off the A1075 outside Thetford (IP24 1RL).
Every Sunday at
All Day Event
Carol Service
The annual Village Carol Service will be held at St Ethelbert's on Sunday December 17th at 5pm. This service is candlelit and followed by mulled wine and mince pies. All welcome.
Every Sunday at for 1 hour
Harvest Thanksgiving
Harvest Thanksgiving service will be held on Sunday 17th September at 9.15a.m. It will take the form of Morning Prayer.
Every Sunday at for 1 hour
BCP Holy Communion 09.15 1st Sunday of each month
Every first Sunday at for 1 hour
BCP Morning Prayer 09.15 3rd Sunday of each month
Every third Sunday at for 1 hour



Wheelchair accessible toilets
Stained Glass Wall Paintings
Other information
A Church Near You ID (venue number): 10229
Built: 1864-65
Architect: William Armstrong
Style of worship: Traditional BCP
Our Patron: Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse
Archdeaconry: NORFOLK (262)
Deanery: THETFORD & ROCKLAND (26207)
Benefice: Thetford (26/420BP)
Parish Legal Name: Wretham with Illington (260462 )
CofE Church Info: (626462 26/462)
Short URL: acny.uk/10229/
QR Code:

The current editor is: Eileen Kitson

This page was last updated on Saturday 15th July 2017
Wretham: St Ethelbert : Church Road, Wretham, Norfolk, IP24 1RJ - off A1075 Thetford to Watton road.

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