Record Details

NHER Number:2254
Type of record:Building
Name:St Mary Magdalen's Church, Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen


This church is largely Perpendicular in style and is predominantly constructed from red brick. The tower is the earliest surviving feature and may date to the 13th century, though some reused Norman carved stone was recorded in 1987. The chancel is reached through an impressive arch and is from the same period as the nave and aisles, suggesting an almost total rebuilding during the 15th century. This has been confirmed by excavation prior to replacement of the nave floor in 1995, and tree-ring dating of samples from the south aisle roof carried out in 2007. Inside, a large collection of fragmentary 14th and 15th century stained glass can be seen. It is recorded that there may have been a hermitage in the church or churchyard.


  • St Mary Magdalene's Church, Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene. Photograph from  © S. Knott


Grid Reference:TF 5986 1137
Map Sheet:TF51SE

Full description

Complex and interesting church.
Stripping of render in 1987 revealed reused Norman carved stone, ironbound conglomerate and erratics in chancel, which is on different alignment to nave. The tower has a 13th century base and a 14th century top. Chancel as it now stands along with the nave, aisles and south porch are all early 15th century, although the chancel was much altered in detail in the 18th/19th century. Two rood stair turrets rise above the roof, but have differing forms. Construction evidence seen in 1987 suggests stages in 15th century rebuilding - straight joints, covered door to rood turret etc. Furnishings include some stained glass, part of a rood screen, benches, tomb slabs including a crossed coffin slab in secondary provenance (see NHER 13297).
Hermitage once in church or yard.
See (S1) and photographs for further details.
E. Rose (NAU), 9 October 1987.

January to May 1995. Excavation. Contexts 1-82.
Excavations by NAU in advance of nave reflooring revealed two phases of rebuilding. In the 15th century, the new nave and chancel were raised by approximately 0.70m. Further alterations likely associated with the raising of the nave roof to accommodate a clerestory were carried out later. Below the 15th century nave floor, a thin layer of silt likely representing a flood layer was found overlaying what was likely the mortar floor of the earlier church.
Fragments of medieval window glass and a complete late medieval floor tile were recovered.
See report (S2) for further details. Work also noted in (S3) and (S4).
The archive associated with this work has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1995.78).
E. Rose (NLA), 29 June 1995. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 17 June 2020.

This is one of the sixty five Norfolk churches selected for (S5).
D. Gurney (NLA), 17 February 2006.

September 2007. Visit in advance of archaeological works.
Additional structural details were noted. Original external limewash was identified beneath the render. The top of the buttress was identified as a 19th or 20th century re-build. Test pits in the wood floor beneath the north aisle revealed that the woodwork is supported on rough brick piles and a fragment of Flemish tile dated to about 1500 was recovered from the earth floor beneath. Medieval to early post medieval bricks and tile were revealed below the south aisle pew platform as well as fragments of slate or marble slabs, two 19th century footstones, and some small pieces of stained glass and metalwork.
See (S6) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA), 24 September 2007.

September 2007. Tree-Ring Dating.
Timbers from the south porch were examined, but were found to contain too short a sequence to support tree-ring dating. Eight samples of timber from the south aisle roof were analyzed. Two series matched each other well, and produced a felling date range of AD 1403-35. These dates agree with the known campaign of building work of about 1420-35 AD, when it is believed that the windows were inserted into the south aisle wall.
See (S7) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 07 May 2008.

March 2008. Building Survey.
A fully illustrated description of the important fenland late medieval church of brick with massive mullion and transom windows. This report is concerned principally with the rendered brick work and tries to establish what was the original render and how best to repair it.
See report (S11).
S. Heywood (HES), 18th October 2012.

January 2010. Excavation and Watching Brief.
Excavation in advance of the insertion of a new floor within the south aisle of the church. Watching Brief also undertaken during trenching for new drains immediately to the south of the church.
See report (S8) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S9).
The associated archive has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2010.211).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 8 January 2010. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 10 February 2014 and 16 May 2019.

December 2010. Building recording.
The building recording undertaken at St Mary's Church and the ruin of St Peter's Church (NHER 2284) revealed that both were constructed from the same red brick of varied sizes and that both probably date to the early 15th century.
See report (S10) for further details.
The archive associated with this work has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2013.108).
S. Howard (HES), 5 July 2011. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 16 May 2019.

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Medieval to 21st Century - 1066 AD? to 2100 AD)
  • FLOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HERMITAGE (RELIGIOUS)? (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • PIT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BRICK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STAINED GLASS (WINDOW) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW GLASS (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: HJQ.
---Aerial Photograph: TF5911 A-C,E,F.
---Article in Serial: Wood, R. 1999. The Chantry Certificates of Norfolk: Towards a Partial Reconstruction. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt II pp 287-306.
---Publication: Boutell. 1854. Christian Monuments.
---Monograph: Bryant, T. H. 1902. Hundred of Freebridge Marshland. The Churches of Norfolk. Vol X. pp 122-130.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Correspondence: Cook, P. and Rose, E.. 2002. E-mail correspondence regarding angel figurine on the hammerbeam of the nave roof.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 778.
---Leaflet: St Mary Magdalene, Wiggenhall..
---Leaflet: The Parish Church of Wiggenhall, St. Mary Magdalen..
---Leaflet: The parish church of Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen..
---Leaflet: The Parish Church of Wiggenhall St Mary Magdelene - A brief guide.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1999. [Photograph of St Mary Magdalen's Church, Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen]. 1 January.
---Photograph: EDY 4-10.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1987. Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen building report. Building Report. October 8.
<S2>Unpublished Contractor Report: Penn, K. 1995. An Excavation within the Church of Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalene. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 125.
<S3>Article in Serial: Nenk, B. S., Margeson, S. and Hurley, M. 1996. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1995. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XL pp 234-318. p 275.
<S4>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1996. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1995. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt III pp 397-412. p 411.
<S5>Publication: Jenkins, S. 2000. England's Thousand Best Churches.
<S6>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 2007. Parish Church Cotinued. Site visit September 2007.
<S7>Monograph: Bridge, M. 2008. Church of St Mary Magdalen, Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, Norfolk. Tree-Ring Dating. English Heritage Research Department Report Series. 14/2008.
<S8>Unpublished Contractor Report: Cope-Faulkner, P. 2010. Archaeological Investigations at St Mary Magdalen's Church, Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, Norfolk. Archaeological Project Services. 9/10.
<S9>Article in Serial: Gurney, D., Bown, J. and Hoggett, R. 2011. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk in 2010. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLVI Pt II pp 262-276. p 276.
<S10>Unpublished Contractor Report: Peachey, M. 2011. Building Recording at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen's and St Peter's Churches, Norfolk. Archaeological Project Services. 12/11.
<S11>Unpublished Report: Heywood, S. 2008. The Church of St Mary Magdalen, Wiggenhall. Statement of Significance.

Related records

MNO2399Related to: Church of St. Mary Magdalen Church Road (Revoked)

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