Church of England Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham Norwell

A history of the church

THE CHURCH OF ST. LAURENCE-NORWELL The parish church of Norwell is dedicated to St. Laurence who was martyred on a gridiron in Rome in the year 258, he can be seen in the left hand panel of the East window. There was a church, with a priest, in the village at the time of the Domesday survey but this could have been a wooden one and no trace of it survives. The south doorway through which you have just entered the church is probably the oldest part of the church, it has typical Norman carving and probably dates from the mid l2th century. As you look across the church you will notice that the pillars supporting the arches are different: those on the south side being circular, those on the north side being octagonal. This suggests that the south aisle was added before the north aisle, the south aisle dating from the late 12th century and the north aisle from the 13th century. If you turn right once inside the church you will see a recess in the south wall of the aisle, in there is the effigy of an unknown lady. The effigy is in very good condition and shows a lady wearing a wimple, her hands clasped in prayer and her feet resting on a small dog. She probably dates from the early 14th century and might have been a member of the family who were lords of the manor of Willoughby which was part of this parish. Continue along the aisle and you will come to the font which is Victorian (so is the pulpit and reredos), on the floor on the right is a 13th century stone slab with a decorated cross carved on it, this was the cover for a priests burial place. Pass through the curtains to the south transept and there you will see a recess with a very worn effigy of a knight with chain mail, sword and shield, it is said to be Sir John de Lisures who died in 1330. To the left of the recess is a piscina (a place where holy vessels were washed)which has some interesting carving. On the walls and floor of this chapel are commemorative slabs the most elaborate of which is dated 1629 and it extolls the virtues of Elizabeth Lee of Overhall. Walk back into the nave and you will see an opening above the pulpit, beyond the pulpit you will see some steep steps leading up to that opening. These are the rood stairs which once gave access to the rood or crucifix which hung in the archway between the nave and the chancel. Although no trace remains it is reasonable to suppose that a rood screen stretched across the archway with a walkway from the rood stair opening to the crucifix. The chancel is basically. Early English with thick walls and tall lancet windows to the north and south, note the priest's door in the south wall. There is a fine east window but the glass belongs to the 19th century. The north transept has a recess but no effigy, to the right of this is an aumbrey (cupboard) in which holy vessels (chalice, patten etc) were kept. The scroll carving on the inside of the aumbrey suggests that the stone had earlier been used elsewhere in the church. This transept has fine roof timbers with deeply cut carving on the bosses. The roof timbers of the north aisle are strong and simple and look as if they could be the originals. Look at the base of the arch into the north aisle and you will see a grinning face with pointed ears, the medieval carver must have enjoyed himself over that one. In the west wall of the north aisle you will see the outline of a buttress to the tower, this might explain why the two western bays of the nave are narrower that the others and the pillars built of odd shaped walling. Perhaps the tower was built beyond the nave of the original church and when joined up two narrow bays had to be built to fit. Looking upwards in the nave you will see the clerestory, the windows above the arches which were needed to give light once the aisles were built. They date from the 15th century and are regarded as a fine example of clerestory work. The tower which has four stages contains six bells the oldest of which has the inscription "˜FEARE GOD' and is dated 1591. On the wall near the tower screen is a board listing the vicars of Norwell from the year 1282, this shows that the living was once divided in two medieties. The churchyard contains some old gravestones the oldest of which is dated 1686 and there are others of the 17th century, there is also a 17th century sundial on a pedestal in the south west part of the churchyard. When in the churchyard look south over the fence and in the field you will see a well preserved moated site, this was the site of Norwell Overhaul, one of the three prebends of Norwell whose stalls can be seen in the chapter house of the Minster church at Southwell. We would very much appreciate your prayers for us as we seek to honour our loving God in our worship and work in this community.