St Mary's Church North Tuddenham, a medieval stone church sitting in grassland with trees in the foreground.
St Mary's Church, North Tuddenham, Norfolk. © Historic England
St Mary's Church, North Tuddenham, Norfolk. © Historic England

Grant Funding to Save St Mary's Church in North Tuddenham, Norfolk

Historic England has awarded an exceptional grant of £280,000 towards the repair of Grade I listed St Mary’s Church in North Tuddenham, Norfolk.

An urgent situation

The 14th century west tower at medieval St Mary’s Church is the earliest part of the building, housing a single bell dating to about 1380.

St Mary’s Church was added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register in 2017. The 14th century tower is showing major defects including structural cracks which have previously been repaired but this has not addressed a long-term problem.

The defects are considered to be progressive and may result in at least partial collapse of the tower if not addressed as a priority.

Exceptional circumstances

Funding from Historic England will enable emergency works to stabilise the tower including underpinning, extensive repairs to the north-west and south-west tower buttresses, repairs to the tower walls and parapets and installation of a new drainage system.

Historic England has considered the grant for St Mary’s Church in highly exceptional circumstances. The emergency works to the church are a priority of the highest degree, necessary to stabilise its condition and prevent loss of important historic fabric. Buildings in use as public places of worship are not normally eligible for Historic England Repair Grants for Heritage at Risk. In this exceptional case Historic England has stepped in to provide essential grant funding to prevent the church tower from risk of collapse.

We have awarded this exceptional grant to save the historic tower at St Mary’s Church from potential collapse. The church is an important historic building, treasured by its local community, and it was imperative to act urgently to ensure that the church is saved and protected for the future.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director (East of England) Historic England

Distinctive features

Within the church, distinctive features include a wide nave without aisles and unique Victorian wall tiling. The chancel roof was raised in height in the late-19th century to accommodate a beautiful east window and at the same time a Bevington windpipe organ was installed. Separating the chancel and the nave are the substantial remains of a 15th century painted rood screen depicting several martyrs including Catherine, Sebastian and Ethelreda.

Throughout the church there are examples of remarkable decoration, including stencilled motifs, wall paintings, framed biblical texts and depictions of the heavens in some of the window arches.

Remarkable medieval stained-glass windows

The north porch has some exceptional medieval stained-glass windows depicting the saints Catherine and Cecilia on one side and a bishop, angels, dragons and eagles on the other.

Medieval glass panels in the tower window show sequences of the life and martyrdoms of St Margaret, an important saint in medieval East Anglia, and also St George, the Seven Sacraments, the Apostles with Creed scrolls and scenes depicting the teaching life of Christ.

There’s something about St Mary’s that brings a sense of calm and tranquillity to everyday life. Just looking at the Visitors’ Book reveals that I am not the only one who feels this way. Architecturally, it is stunningly beautiful and steeped in nearly 650 years of history. I thought that all this could be lost forever until Historic England intervened with this fantastic offer of help. I hope that their act of generous support is followed by other charities so that we can repair the tower and enjoy this church for many, many years to come.

Mike Smith, Fabric Officer St Mary's Church North Tuddenham