Record Details

NHER Number:8581
Type of record:Building
Name:St Mary's Church, West Somerton


The church here dates to the medieval period and later. Much of it was restored during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. There are 11th and 12th century features in the nave including door and windows frames that feature possible Early or Middle Saxon bricks (although the bricks could be Roman). The round tower was built in the mid 13th century and the chancel has 14th century features, despite extensive 19th restorations. Inside are important late 14th century wall paintings.


  • St. Mary's Church, West Somerton. Photograph from  © S. Knott


Grid Reference:TG 4754 1954
Map Sheet:TG41NE

Full description

September 1962. Listed Grade II*.
Listing Description:
Parish church. West tower and nave c.1200, the former with 14th-century belfry stage. Nave remodelled early 14th century. Chancel 15th century. Restoration 1867. Flint with ashlar dressings and some brick repairs. Thatched nave roof and slated chancel. Three stage tower, lower two stages are circular. Restored two-light 14th-century west window : trefoil-headed lights supporting quatrefoil. Brick lancet to ringing chamber with pointed head and brick relieving arch. String course below octagonal belfry stage. Single lancets to each facet, alternatively blocked with knapped flint. Plain brick parapet. Diagonal west nave buttresses. Kneelers at west gable of ashlar bearing rosettes and carved heads. Blocked arched south door. Three two-light late 13th-century Y windows to south nave and one 18th-century sloping brick buttress, slated. Above windows is a deep pantiled string course. This pattern similar to north except only two windows : one of two lights and Y tracery as before. The other two-lights and cusped under square head. Gabled north porch has wave moulded entrance arch with one order engaged columns. Thatched roof. Chancel supported by flushwork diagonal east buttresses and stepped side buttresses framing 19th-century Perpendicular windows. Two of three lights each to flanks, one of five lights to east. Low priests door to north with two orders of wave mouldings.
Interior. 14th-century chamfered and hollow chamfered tower arch on polygonal responds with capitals. Arched rere arches to north and south nave doorways. Mid 14th-century chancel arch has concave fluting to engaged columns, high polygonal bases and star capitals, all no doubt by a mason who worked in the choir at Ely c.1328- 35. The jambs themselves are wave moulded and restored. Plain 14th-century octagonal font. Late 14th-century wall paintings in nave. North wall has entry into Jerusalem, Flagellation and Resurrection, all now badly worn. On south side St. Christopher and large scene of Day of Judgement. 19th-century boarded scissor braced nave and chancel roofs. 15th-century hexagonal pulpit with concave sides, the edges moulded and each panel carrying ogee tracery. One facet open to allow entry via 19th-century stairs, another, facing wall, is blank. Moulded top rail. Plinth also 19th century. Reduced 15th-century chancel screen of 1½ bays each side of cusped ogee opening. Two lozenge traceried dado panels. Above are two-light ogeed tracery lights and panel tracery below top rail. Fleur-de-lys cresting to top rail.
Information from (S15).
P. Watkins (HES), 22 August 2019.

1989. Watching Brief.
Watching brief carried out when render was stripped from the north nave wall of the round-towered church. This revealed a Norman nave, door and windows, which contained bricks which may be Roman but do not appear to be so. One of the round-headed windows had a sill formed by a massive lava slab. The north doorway is dated to circa 1200, and the round tower is proposed to be mid-13th century, with a chancel Perpendicular, probably by a mason who worked at Ely Cathedral and thus early for Norfolk. There are 18th to 19th century alterations and the church was restored in 1867.
Important set of wallpaintings circa 1377. There are various tomb slabs and stone coffin lids, and one was found in yard. A stone carving was dug up in the church in the 19th century.
See report (S1) for further details. See also newspaper articles (S2)-(S6) and photographs (S7). The results of this work are summarised in (S12) and (S13).
E. Rose (NAU), 30 October 1989 amended by M. Langham-Lopez (HES) 24 June 2013.

Thermoluminescence date of three samples from bricks produced a mean date of AD 470 +/- 100; it was felt this indicated an Early/Middle Saxon (or less likely a late Roman) date for the bricks.
See report (S8) in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 31 December 1993.

March 2004.
Further notes (S9) in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 27 March 2004.

July 2009.
Roof re-thatched with traditional reed. Victorian thatching pegs were recovered from the existing thatch.
See (S10) and (S11) for further details
H. White (NLA), 1 July 2009

2009-2011. Dendrochronological Survey.
A number of timbers from this church were sampled for tree-ring analysis but unfortunately none proved to be suitable for dating.
The timbers sampled included several from the main structure of the medieval nave roof, which were considered to contain too few rings. Several thatching spars had sufficient rings but were found to have been almost destroyed by insect attack.
See report (S14) for further details.
P. Watkins (HES), 22 August 2019.

Angel Award for the Best Repair of a Place of Worship
Pauline Burkitt and Simon Pleasley, churchwardens for St Mary's church, West Somerton, Norfolk.
D. Gurney (HES), 1 November 2012.

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Middle Saxon to 19th Century - 651 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BRICK (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BRICK (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BRICK (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COFFIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOOR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FONT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROOD SCREEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL PAINTING (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WINDOW (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PEG (Post Medieval to 21st Century - 1540 AD to 2050 AD)
  • Xbell frame (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TG4719A.
---Illustration: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 718.
---Correspondence: 1993 to 1994. Correspondence regarding thermoluminescence dating of brick from St Mary's, West Somerton.
---Correspondence: 2004. Correspondence regarding St Mary's Church, West Somerton.
---Monograph: Bryant, T. H. 1899. Hundreds of East and West Flegg. The Churches of Norfolk. Vol IV. pp 104-108.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. New thatched roof a boost for paintings. 29 September.
---Article in Serial: Ashley, S., Penn, K. & Rogerson, A.. 2011. Rhineland Lava in Norfolk Churches. Church Archaeology. vol 13, pp 27-33. p 31.
---Leaflet: Roy Tricker. 1987. Guide to Saint Mary's Parish Church, West Somerton..
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2008. Appeal to repair church roof. 19 May.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 1989. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1976. Church medieval wall painting being saved. 24 June.
<S3>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1986. The Norfolk giant 'is no tall story'. 29 December.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. Priceless church paintings at risk. 21 July.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1988-1989. [Articles on the funding needed for restoration at St Mary's Church, West Somerton].
<S6>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1989. Historic paintings under threat as appeal flounders. 30 May.
<S7>Photograph: EZJ 25-29.
<S8>Unpublished Report: Hunter, F. 1993. Thermoluminescence dating of bricks from West Somerton church, Norfolk.
<S9>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 2004. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S10>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2009. Finishing touches made to church roof. 1 July.
<S11>Website: English Heritage. 2012.
<S12>Article in Serial: Gaimster, D. R. M., Margeson, S. and Hurley, M.. 1990. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1989. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XXXIV pp 162-252. p 203.
<S13>Article in Serial: Gurney, D (ed.). 1990. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1989. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt I pp 107-112. p 111.
<S14>Monograph: Bridge, M. 2012. Church of St Mary, West Somerton, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers: Scientific Dating Report. English Heritage Research Report Series. 10-2012.
<S15>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1216608.

Related records - none

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 - 2024 Norfolk Historic Environment Service