Record Details

NHER Number:1859
Type of record:Building
Name:St Wandregesilius' Church, Bixley


This is the only church in the country dedicated to Saint Wandregesilius, a 7th century monk. The building is on a Saxon site and may have originally been a minster. However, it was rebuilt in 1272 by the Bailiff of Norwich and the foundation stone of this rebuild has survived, a very rare occurrence.
The existing tower appears to be 14th century with later modification and a 17th century parapet. Most of the rest of the church is a rebuild of 1868.
The site was a medieval pilgrimage centre (to a statue destroyed in 1538), but now stands isolated, as its village has disappeared, and the road by which it stood is no longer in use. Inside the church is a medieval altar slab, and important monuments to the Ward family, who lived at Bixley Hall. The church was gutted by fire on 14th May 2004, with the loss of much of the interior and some of the stonework. It is understood that the damage was so great that the whole church with the exception of the tower shell is to be demolished to its footings.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 2585 0496
Map Sheet:TG20SE

Full description

January 1975.Visited.
Unique dedication in Britain.
Medieval pilgrimage centre (to a statue destroyed in 1538).
Tower possibly 14th century with a possibly 17th century brick parapet. Church rebuilt in 1868 (apart from the west tower) with impressive pyramidal roof over crossing. Altar slab ancient as possibly are the black and white floor tiles in front of it. Brass plaque of 1458. Foundation stone of church, rebuilt in 1272, with later mass dial on one side preserved in chancel. Memorials: Altar tomb of Edward Ward 1585 now built into wall. Carved monuments to Sir Edward Ward 1742, and Sir Randall Ward 1762, and Susan Ward. Report (S1) in file.
E. Rose (NAU), 18 January 1975.

Chalice, 17th century, in Cathedral treasury.

Old church had Early English south door and priest's door: nave and chancel were continuous.
The original west window was straight headed, as seen in a drawing of 1813 (S2), according to Mr Fenner, who also states the tower has a fine brick spiral staircase.
The drawing does indeed show a late 14th century straight headed west window; also a south porch, south priest's door, and possible Y tracery southeast window, all late 13th century.

Photographs (S3), (S4), plans,press cuttings (S5) and (S6) in file.
E.Rose (NLA), 12 November 1990.

May 2004.Visited.
Church gutted by fire. See (S7) and (S8) in file for extent of damage, also for effect upon the important memorials. Reconsideration of structure suggests tower either 14th century remodelled 15th century, or all of latter date, but perhaps belfry never added.
E. Rose (NLA), 21 May 2004.

August 2007.
As above, but completely overgrown with nettles etcetera, and behind fencing, so inaccessible.
D. Gurney (NLA), 2 August 2007

January 2009. Building survey
The church stands on the edge of a deserted medieval settlement. The tower dates from the fourteenth century and is unbuttressed and faced with kanpped and galletted black flint. On the south face is a polygonal stair turret giving access to the bell chamber. The tower has limestone ashlar quoins whilst the stair turret has brick angles. The crenelated red brick parapet is probably a rebuilding. There are tiny bell openings on three faces, all of different designs. The east face of the tower contains an exceptionally tall tower arch and above this an area of rough masonary which was originally plastered or hidden within a roof space. The tower arch is the same width as the tower itself. The nave and chancel were rebuilt in 1868. Several of the monuments, such as the brass plaque and two Ward family memorial slabs have been removed and stored by Fairhaven of Anglesea Abbey
See (S9) for further information
H. White (NLA), 2 March 2009

October 2009.
There is some debate as to whether the church should be rebuilt following the fire of 2004.
See (S10)-(S12) for details.
H. White, (NLA), 19 October 2009

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHURCH (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOOR (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WINDOW (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Scheduling record: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England.
---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1997. TG 2504AQ - ABX; TG 2505F - T.
---Photograph: Rose, E.. 2004. KPQ.
---Archive: Bolingbroke Collection.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2004. Future of arson-hit church is in doubt.. 25 May.
---Leaflet: The Parish Church of St Wandregesilius the Abbot Bixley..
---Leaflet: Macrina. 2011. The Vita Prima of Saint Wandregesilius.. Mettingham College Series No 2.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Bixley.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Unpublished document: Rose, E.. 1975. Building Report.. 18 January.
<S2>Publication: Fenner. 1813. Illustration.
<S3>Photograph: 1984. TG 2504/P - N, Z, AB.
<S4>Photograph: Rose, E.. KPQ 5 - 18.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. The forgotten saint of Bixley.. 2 July.
<S6>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1999. Tiny church with a massive date.. 2 July.
<S7>Unpublished document: Rose, E.. 2004. Building Report..
<S8>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2004. Beautiful old church gutted.. 15 May.
<S9>Unpublished document: Heywood, S.. 2009. The Church of St Wandregesilius the Abbot, Bixley. Statement of Significance.
<S10>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Money better spent.. 14 October.
<S11>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Put focus on the living.. 17 October.
<S12>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Why rebuild ruined church?. 19 October.
<S13>Illustration: Unknown. Unknown. Sketch plan of St Wandregesilius' Church.. Film. 1:100.

Related records

MNO4027Related to: Church of St. Wandregeselius BIXLEY (Revoked)

Find out more...

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2019 Norfolk Historic Environment Service