Record Details

NHER Number:5907
Type of record:Building
Name:St Peter's Church, Thetford


St Peter's Church is mentioned in Domesday, but the present building was constructed in the 14th century. The church was enlarged in the 15th century with the addition of flanking chancel chapels and a north aisle. The west tower was rebuilt in 1789, apparently to a new design, and bells and stained glass were also installed around this time. The present church is constructed of flint and flushwork with ashlar dressings and has tile nave and chancel roofs but lead north aisle roofs. It consists of a west tower, nave, north nave and chancel aisles and chancel.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 8692 8317
Map Sheet:TL88SE

Full description

April 1951. Listed, Grade II*.
Listing Description:
Parish church. 14th century and 15th century. West tower rebuilt 1789. Flint and flushwork with ashlar dressings. Tile nave and chancel roofs and lead north aisle roofs. West tower, nave, north nave and chancel aisles and chancel. 4-stage tower with diagonal west buttresses and side east buttresses. Ogeed west doorway with multiple mouldings below date: 1789. Ringing chamber with 2-light Y-tracery north and south windows; upper ringing chamber with one 3-light Y-tracery west window. 2-light louvred belfry windows. Crenellated parapet. Four 3-light Perpendicular south nave windows under 4-centred arches separated by stepped buttresses. Gabled nave roof. North nave aisle has a 3-light Perpendicular west window, an arched north doorway with double sunk-quadrant mouldings and two 3-light cusped windows under flat hoods. Later chimney separates nave from north chancel aisle. Four 2-light 15th century north clerestory windows. North chancel aisle pierced by 3 paired lancets. South chancel lit through two 19th century three-light Perpendicular windows. Stepped side buttresses. Arched brick 20th century door to right. 3-light 19th century east window. Running south from east buttress is a length of flint and brick wall containing a stone pointed arch.
INTERIOR: 4-bay north arcade with double chamfered arches on octagonal piers. Moulded capitals and bases. Double-chamfered chancel arch with circular responds. North aisle roof has 15th century moulded principals and one tier of butt purlins, carved arched braces and 4-centred wall arches. North chancel chapel with 3 arcade bays of double-chamfered pointed arches and a 16th century four-bay roof of flat-moulded principals and butt purlins. Boarded barrel-vaulted chancel roof. 19th century octagonal font in chancel. Seats and pulpit 19th century. West wall of nave with painted Royal Arms of George III.
Information from (S1).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 Auguat 2008.

March 1987. Restoration.
Repairs to the pinnacles of the church are to be carried out. A window is to be replaced in the ringing chamber and a bell frame is to be repainted.
See (S2) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 August 2008.

December 1990. Building Survey.
The church stands on a pre-Conquest site, under the control of St Mary the Great, but no visible Saxon work remains. The details of the church shown by Martin (S3) seem 14th century, as shown by the remaining arcades, north door, and north chapel windows as well as Martin's description of the tower and east window.
The chancel arch is somewhat of an oddity; it does not correspond with the acades, but is perhaps a Perpendicular alteration.
The three easternmost south nave windows are Perpendicular, as are those surviving in the north aisle and the windows depicted by Martin (S3) over the porch, in the chancel south wall, and in the south chapel. The present appearance dates before Ladbroke's print (about 1830) but after Tom Martin (1740, S3). It is therefore probably part of the works of 1789 that saw the tower rebuilt. The porch was removed in favour of a west door, and a new window made to match the two existing. The south chapel was removed, and new windows imitating those in the nave constructed, plus the otherwise strangely placed doorway. This is a remarkable piece of Gothic Revival for the late 18th century - not even Gothik - yet so for that matter is the tower.
In the 19th century the roof was replaced, the vestry added, and the east window remade. This may have been blocked up after Martin's day due to the proximity of the King's House, and the lack of use of chancels at that period. The present appearance of the chancel south windows and doorway seems to be due to the very recent reconstruction and simplification, perhaps around 1950.
See (S4) for further details.
E. Rose (NAU) 11 December 1990.
Updated H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 August 2008.

September 1991.
A three hour peal of the church bells is to be rung in order to celebrate the 200th anniversary of their installation.
Information from (S5).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 August 2008.

Rev. Armstrong's entry for 17th September 1874 diary, refers to a fine organ at the west end and a Madonna on an altar panel brought from a French nunnery.
Information from (S6).
E. Rose (NLA), 15 September 1997.

Church Bells
The oak bell frame at St Peter's was likely constructed in 1789, when the tower was rebuilt. It was repaired by Day of Eye in 1875 and again by Gillett and Johnson in 1937. The existing bell gear is primarily that supplied by Day of Eye in 1875 while the bells were turned by Gillet and Johnson in 1937. A peal board in the in the ringing room records the opening of the bells in 1791 when a complete three hour peal was rung.
See (S7) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 August 2008.

September 2004. Survey.
The raised churchyard of St Peters is divided in two by the church, with a small area to the north and a larger area to the south. It has been laid to grass but retains several 18th century grave markers including two chest tombs on the south side.
The early development of the church has been outlined above. Elders (S8) adds that the lack of 18th century or earlier furniture or fittings (apart from the 18th century stained glass and bells) indicates a major reordering and refurnishing in the late 19th cetury, possibly around 1875. In the mid 1980's the north chapel was converted to a meeting room and kitchen and toilets were inserted into the vestry which had presumably been added in the late 19th century. The interior is currently whitewashed, with exposed timber roofs. The roof of the north aisle includes 15th century features while that of the north chapel has 16th century features.
The late 18th century heraldic stained glass in the nave windows was made by G. B. Burrell in 1791 while the west window in the north aisle was by Wm Peckitt in 1771. A ring of eight bells of 1790 was constructed by Thomas Osborn who founded the Downham Foundry and was paid for by Lord Petre. As noted above, these bells were re-hung in 1875 and 1937.
See (S8) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 August 2008.

Blatchley and Northeast (S9) note that the four two-light Perpendicular windows in the clerestorey were constructed by the Aldryche family of North Lopham.
This source also quotes descriptions by Blomefield (S10) and Martin (S3) of an inscrption to Peter most unusually on the west wall of the demolished south porch. The authors point out that some of the various flushwork devices on the south wall of the nave and chancel are 18th century copies and suggest that this is part of an inscription formerly on the tower, emphasizing the amount of rebuilding in the 18th century. There was also a donor inscription on the south chapel, of which some fragments have been reused.
See (S9) for further details.
E. Rose 21 April 2005.
Updated H. Hamilton (NLA), 15 August 2008.

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1066 AD?)
  • CHURCH (13th Century to 21st Century - 1300 AD to 2100 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Unpublished Document: Cattermole, P.. 2000. Inventory of church bells and bell-frames in Norfolk.
---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 703-704.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Late Saxon. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2015. Work on historic church wall delayed by insurers. 7 May.
<S1>Designation: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1219326.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. £60,000 aim for churches restoration. 24 March.
<S3>Documentary Source: Martin, T. c. 1700-1799. Collections of Church Notes. Norfolk Records Office. c. 1740.
<S4>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1990. Building Report. St Peter's Church.. Building Report. 11 December 1990.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1991. Anniversary peal. 18 September.
<S6>Publication: Armstrong, H. B. J (ed). 1949. A Norfolk Diary. Passages from the Diary of The Rev. Benjamin John Armstrong. p 184.
<S7>Unpublished Document: Cattermole, P.. 2000. Inventory of church bells and bell-frames in Norfolk. p 11.
<S8>Unpublished Document: Elders, J.. 2004. Pastoral Measure Report: Thetford St Peter. 24 September 2004.
<S9>Monograph: Blatchley, J. & Northeast, P.. 2005. Decoding the Flint Flushwork in Norfolk and Suffolk Churches.. pp 798-780.
<S10>Serial: Blomefield, F.. 1805. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk.. Vol II.

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