St Mary's Church
Drawn by Janet McLean
Vicar of St. Mary’s Watton and Priest in Charge of All Saints
The Revd. Geoff Garrett, The Vicarage, Norwich Road , WATTON,
Thetford, Norfolk IP25 6BD. Tel/Fax: 01953 881 439
Assistant Curate: The Revd Suzanne Cooke
Ordained Local Minister: The Revd. Rod Broughall. Tel 01953 881
Church Administrator: Margaret Cator 01953 881252
Church Office Hours: Tues, Wed & Thurs 9.00 – 1.00
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST MARY’S CHURCH, WATTON, NORFOLK ,
According to the Domesday Book Watton had a church prior to 1086. The present church is most likely to have been built on the same site, and is generally accepted to have been built between 1100 and 1135. St Mary’s Church, which was originally dedicated to St Giles, but was rededicated to St Mary in the early C15, is of flint construction in the Norman and Gothic styles. In the 1840’s extensive building work was begun, widening the aisles to increase seating capacity from 260 to 480, which makes St Mary’s the only church in Norfolk that is wider than its length.
Its round tower has an octagonal belfry containing six bells. This new ‘peal’– a set of bells attuned to each other – was installed in 1899 for ‘change ringing’ paid for by public subscription. Previously there were only three bells housed in a wooden spire and inscribed ‘John Brend made me in ‘1656-1658’. At one time there was a musician’s gallery in the west end, and records show that in 1845 the church had a small orchestra which consisted of a violin, two flutes and two clarinets.
One of the church’s most treasured possessions is the wooden poor box, which represents the figure of a priest on whose chest is inscribed the words ‘Remember the Poore 1639’. He is shown holding a bag with an orifice at the top where money can be placed before passing into the box below.
In 1952 the cement rendering that had covered the round part of the tower since Victorian times was removed to reveal very little damage to the flint work, which was then repointed to give a most pleasing effect to the fine craftsmanship of the original builders of over eight hundred years ago.