St James Bawsey, Norfolk, 30th March 2019

June 3, 2019
Written by: Rob Slusar

The second church on my visit to Norfolk was another that I have been to previously.

St James, Bawsey

Once the star of Time Team, This stunning Norman church is one of the easiest finds in Norfolk. If you are travelling towards Hunstanton it stands proudly on a rise in the land and can be seen for miles.

Whilst the tower and nave of current church appears to date back to the 11th century, it is possible that it dates back further than this. Some historical research suggest it may have been occupied since the Bronze age. Other parts of the church appear to have been added later (perhaps 14th/15th century).

It’s possible that the Bawsey parish dates back as far as the Palaeolithic period. Some data suggests that as the parish developed it would take on some religious importance.

Whilst the church now sits lonely on the hill, evidence found at the site tells us that it was surrounded by a village from early Saxon times until the late 16th century.

What’s interesting about this church is its location. It looks out of place on a hill these days, but when built this hill was really an island. Located close to the sea the village would have been an important harbour town.

It is believed that the church went to ruin between 1740 and 1770. Today it is a listed building and scheduled monument.

The Photos

Despite the road to it now being only passable by tractor I managed to find my way up to this beautiful church. It was hot, bright, probably not the best light to take photos in, but I pushed on regardless.

It was during this stop that it became more obvious I had damage to my wide angle lens (which is now repaired) and some of the pictures took a bit more work. Here they are.

Whilst this church dates back to the 11th century, it is possible that an earlier church was either on this site, or just metres away. Whilst evidence is not conclusive, other sites similar to this have shown evidence of multiple churches.

The church these days looks out over rolling fields. When it was built, the sea would have been surrounding the site and it’s village.

Unlike other churches of it’s age, this site has a central tower, rather than being at one end like Appleton for example. This could be just a quirk of it’s builders, but it does suggest the church may have played a more important role (probably Monastic) than just a simple parish meeting place.

The central tower along with the nave was part of the original Norman church, the stonework nearest in this photo was later.

The shape of the remains always gives the vision of a ship when I look at it.

Despite not much remaining, it still gives you the impression of a fairly large church.

The church looks splendid in the clear spring skies.

The angled stonework crossing towards the original opening in the bell tower suggests different phase of the build. It appears that a lower roof cut through the tower about halfway up. It looks to me that the roof was raised later.

As imposing as the tower looks, the break in this window frame suggests that it was even bigger in its pomp.

The large crack running up the other side makes me wonder how much longer this beauty will continue to stand.

My belief is that these corner buttresses were also added to the nave at a later date.

Final Thoughts

My wander was cut short by a number of teenagers out on a hike who decided to use the church walls as seats. Not wanting them to get in my pictures I packed up.

Even thought I have been here a couple of times now, this church hasn’t lost any of it’s charm. Despite its cracks and bits of stone scattered all around, it still stands as prominent as it would have done in it’s original state.

The church remains accessible and there are no restrictions getting to it. The only issue now is that the road I used previously is much damaged by constant farm use. It’s possibly passable if you have a 4×4, but I would recommend parking further down the road and walking up.

Worth a stop if you are in the area.

As always. Thanks for looking.


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