Record Details

NHER Number:10932
Type of record:Building
Name:St Mary's Church


A fine example of a round-towered church, consisting of a west tower, nave, chancel with north and south chapels and a two storey north porch. The west tower has round headed bell openings, circular windows and a round headed west window with incised chevron decoration surrounding it. Five bells hang in the tower, three dated 1670, and two from 1832, at which date the bell frame was built. Both the tower and the nave are early, dating to the late 11th century. The chancel and chapels are 13th century, and the north porch 15th century. Inside, the very fine double hammerbeam roof, some bench ends, and the font are all 15th century. The screen to the north chapel is early 17th century, and there are 17th and 18th century monuments to the Kemp family, who were Lords of the Manor for some six hundred years.


  • The round tower of St Mary's Church, Gissing. Photograph from  © S. Knott


Grid Reference:TM 1462 8529
Map Sheet:TM18NW

Full description

Round tower with three circular double splayed windows halfway up tower.
Midwall shafts in belfry openings.
Late 11th century Norman or as late as 1120 (Whittingham). But (S1) says undoubtedly pre conquest.
See (S2) and (S3).
Taylor and Taylor date to 'C3', meaning 1050 to 1100.

See (S4) for story of Rev. J. Gibb's retreat here.

(S5) says Saxon foundations under north porch. Norman windows in tower, Norman south door.
Round tower probably of around 1096.
Possibly Saxon long and short work in quoins?
South chapel early 13th century, north chapel altered from one of same date? Decorated and Perpendicular windows. North porch with flushwork and niches.
Double hammerbeam roof. Jacobean screen.
Some 15th century bench ends, the rest 19th century. 17th and 18th century monuments.
Paten, London 1514, Chalice Norwich 1567.
There are three bells inscribed Ipswich 1670, and two of 1832 made at Downham Market. The 1670 bells may be a set mentioned in 1552, recast for change ringing. The bellframe is of 1832 by Robert Ayton, not known elsewhere; very light construction, the walls much excavated to get it in. Information from [1].

Ordnance Survey marks site of All Saints Chapel in yard to east. (See (S4) re. Chantry) founded by Sir Nicholas Hastings, in about 1280.
All that remains is a slight elevation, adjacent to east end of church, covered by graves.
M.D. Leah (NAU), 19 December 1990.

Newspaper cuttings (S6) and (S7) in file.

Site of chantry chapel in yard.
See full report (S8) in file.

The Gissing funeral helmet was removed from St Mary's church in 1990, conserved, and replaced in 1996.
See (S9) for further details and illustrations.
H. White, (NLA), 22 October 2009

Monument Types

  • ROUND TOWERED CHURCH (Late Saxon to 19th Century - 851 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SITE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SITE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SITE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • DOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HELMET (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TM 1485D,E,L.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 359-360.
---Monograph: Hart, S.. 2010. Medieval Church Window Tracery in England. p 4.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Gissing.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Unpublished Document: Reynolds Jury Architecture. 2006. St Mary the Virgin Church, Gissing, Norfolk. Specification. Roof Repairs & Retiling. Stage II.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1988. Village legend recalls bravery on battlefields. 3 May.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2016. Medieval church now in need of urgent repairs. 22 April.
<S1>Publication: Cautley, H. M. 1949. Norfolk Churches. pp 5, 201.
<S2>Monograph: Brown, G. B. 1937. Anglo-Saxon Architecture. The Arts in Early England. Vol II. p 42.
<S3>Publication: Messent, C. J. W. 1931. The Ruined Churches of Norfolk. p 93.
<S4>Serial: Blomefield, F. 1805. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk. Vol I. p 163.
<S5>Monograph: Pevsner, N. 1962. North-West and South Norfolk. The Buildings of England. 1st Edition. p 172; Pl 23.
<S7>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1993. [Photographs of St Mary's Church, Gissing].
<S8>Unpublished Document: Rose, E. (NLA). 1999. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S9>Unpublished Document: Turner- Walker, Dr G.. 1996. Gissing Funeral Helm.

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