St Mary Appleton, Norfolk, 30th March 2019

May 15, 2019
Written by: Rob Slusar

When I first took up photography in 2013, a lot of it stemmed from my love of history. I wanted to document historic sites and my camera was an aid to help me do that.

As I have continued, I have felt more and more compelled to record history, either by camera or just by teaching others. This, in part has guided my latest project.

The Project

So, I have always been drawn to abandoned stuff. I am not an urban explorer by any means, but I want to know what happened. Why did this building go out of use, what happened to the family that lived here etc. One of my massive loves, even though I am not religious is churches.

Once upon a time, each settlement would have had a church or chapel of some kind. Through the years, these towns have vanished, the parishes have moved or the churches have just gone out of use.¬†As I say above, I am not religious but I know a lot of people are. This is why I fend a derelict church so interesting. Why did the flock leave? Did they just move away, did they lose their faith? It’s just a line of questions I always want to answer.

My goal going forward is to capture the churches that remain in these places and try to tell their story. Norfolk is my starting point as there are a massive amount there.

St Mary’s, Appleton

St Mary’s is a church I visited in my early days as a photographer. I chose it as my first on this project because I loved it.

Now part of a farm, this round towered church was based in the medieval settlement of Appleton (which now no longer exists except for a few earthworks). It is believed that it dates from the Norman period, but could date back to the late Saxon period (the tower certainly supports this).

Whilst this may look like small unassuming church, it does have some interesting elements to it. Firstly, it is believed that some of the construction material is recycled Roman building materials (possibly some tile coursing in the tower).

The second interesting element is that the church yard housed a “holy well”. These wells were considered to have some form of religious or ritualistic significance. Not something you expect in rural Norfolk.

The Photos

This church is small, but I just love shooting it. It has a certain vibe about it that I just love.

You may remember that I went here in 2015 and it was the first time I ever shot in RAW. It’s amazing to me how far I have come as a photographer since then.

Sadly, there was no sunset this time, but here are the photos.

The church has been tidied up a lot since the last time I went. Last time there was a lot of foliage growing wild. This is now gone.

Looking through the nave. Whilst I can’t confirm it, I believe that the church extended further out towards where I was standing.

I believe it may also have extended outwards as the position of the arches here should be internal.

It looks like there are a number of different building phases. The tower being Saxon, the main church being Norman, and parts like this porch coming later.

Looking up the tower.

In the nave. You can see here how this porch seems to have been built later.

Sadly, I realised after that I had a damaged lens (now off for repair), which had an impact on my shots. In order to save this one, I went with a preset i found.

Decided to try and be arty and use the lines of the fence as leading lines.

And another.

Yes. I do love photographing this Church.

Final Thoughts

So that is the start of my new project. Hopefully this will be something I come back to from time to time to give myself a focus. It also means I can skip out alone and shoot things.

St Mary’s is a lovely little church, its open and easily accessible. You won’t be there long, but it’s worth a look if you are in the area.

I have some more coming up, so keep an eye out for them.

Thanks for looking.


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