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looking east | by Simon Knott
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looking east

St Peter, Mattishall Burgh, Norfolk


Mattishall is a tiny, pretty town almost exactly in the middle of Norfolk. It has a magnificent church, All Saints, on the market square, but out here in what passes for a suburb is a second church, the parish church of Mattishall Burgh. Burgh, pronounced Burr'a, is just about the most common placename in Norfolk, and usually refers, as you'd expect, to an outlying settlement of a larger community. St Peter is hidden from the road, up a track, and surrounded by houses and gardens, a rather incongruous setting considering that it is set on an ancient rise. From the outside, it appears a small church, a largely 14th century remodelling of something older, with a rare surviving sanctus bell turret on the nave east gable.


Going around the other side, you get something of a surprise, because there is a huge north transept, which at first sight you think must be Victorian. But on closer inspection it appears to be 14th century, and, as Mortlock says, probably exactly contemporary with the tower.


Sam Mortlock, writing in the early 1980s, says that he found this church cherished and welcoming, but I have to tell you that this is no longer the case. He fondly records the four pensioners who worked to save the church from decay. But regular services are no longer held at Mattishall Burgh, and have not been for years. There are no notices, and there is a large, unfriendly padlock on the porch doors. It is hard to think of a building as being cherished if it is so unwelcoming. But the churchyard here is still in use, whilst that at the main church in the centre of town is not. So I suppose this building is still occasionally used for funerals. Appropriate, perhaps, that a dying church should be at the service of the dead.

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Taken on October 27, 2014