St Mary’s Saxon Round Tower Church, Haddiscoe, Norfolk (1)

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This my 20th post…so it has to be a special posting….so a special church is required.  This has been a spectacular week-end weather wise and for me and trusted friend (camera) we visited 12 churches and 1 priory.  Saturday… no roof angels, today Sunday… roof angels galore, but I have chosen my very first ‘Round Tower Church’  There are, I think, 192 left in Norfolk & Suffolk, my aim is to visit as many as I can, if not all of them, did 4 this week-end so thats a start.

The area I talked my husband into visiting on Saturday was north of Beccles, near Great Yarmouth and we went to see the ‘Raveningham Group of Parishes’.  This is a group of churches that are always open, which is great if you have travelled a distance to visit a church.

The first church and the one this post is about, is St Mary’s Church at Haddiscoe, Norfolk, identified as Hadd’s Wood from the old Scandinavian ‘skogr = wood’.  St Mary’s is situated on a hill top, with its Saxon round tower providing an excellent look out.  If you stripped away the medieval porch on the south side and the medieval north aisle, the layout would be typically early Saxon……so ancient….just standing inside that church gave me the tingles.  I get that feeling when I stand in front of a church door, turn the ancient door handle and it never fails me, the anticipation of what is behind those great heavy doors….so disappointed when the door stays firmly locked.


The origins of this church lie in ‘The Dark Ages’ this is around 450 when the Roman Legions left and 1066 with The Battle of Hastings.  With the exception of churches such as St Mary’s, few Saxon buildings remain.  They were not stonemason, they mainly built out of timber for their farmhouses up to more complex palaces and fortifications.  What is known is that they had to import stonemason from the continent to teach them how to work their new chosen material.  Just image the scene, the east coast where the church is positioned would have been under constant threat from Norse raiders and the massive construction of the church tower with its original entrance some 16ft above ground level would have provided protection when needed by drawing up the ladder and the door firmly bolted.


The oldest part of the church is the Saxon round tower, from the Norman conquest onwards and throughout the medieval period a series of additions and alterations were made.  However rather than detracting from the original they have complimented the building.  The chancel arch is a 14th century and the roof, aisle and chancel are 15th century,  The previous roofing materials would have been thatch made from local Norfolk reed.


You enter by the porch on the southside which has helped protect the fine Norman doorway and the iron work on the door shows a Scandinavian influence.

St Mary’s in its medieval form would have been a very colourful place and a little of this decoration remains in the high workmanship of what is left of St Christopher and the Christ Child.


The 20th century has been a time of restoration for the church, much has been achieved but more remains to be done, but hopefully it will remain for many years to come, looking out over the marshes, which now have become the Norfolk Broads.

So that is my 20th post and I think that a ‘Saxon Round Tower Church’ was a good choice, simple but very meaningful.

Views of the exterior and churchyard.

19 Replies to “St Mary’s Saxon Round Tower Church, Haddiscoe, Norfolk (1)”

  1. Wow that is amazing. I am currently trying to visit all the 342 redundant churches looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. You’re right, it was a gorgeous weekend but I only managed eight churches 🙂 I look forward to reading more about your travels.

    1. Its only because husband is not at all interested, so he drives very fast from one church to the next and we only went out in the afternoons, lucky I am still here really, but he does drive faster than me, thats why I use him. I am going to try to do all the redundant churches in Norfolk and Cambs but theres too many angel churches to see and now round towers now that I want to see. I think we are going to be busy girls…….many thanks for looking and liking 🙂

    1. Yes, I must admit I just took it for granted that because it was Saxon and built more like a fort than a church it would have them, but looking at the others they are different…will have do somemore digging…and glad you like the photos 🙂

    1. I think I might be aiming a bit high with the round tower churches, because it is now any church I come across as they are all so different….just lucky to live within easy reach of 3 counties with wonderful churches. Many thanks for dropping by.

    1. Many thanks for dropping by Rachael and for your kind comments, just want to say I enjoyed your blog and I am beginning to think there could be quite a few nutty people, in the nicest possible way 🙂

    2. >________________________________ > From: Echos of the Past >To: >Sent: Saturday, May 4, 2013 12:47 PM >Subject: [New comment] St Mary’s 1 of Norfolk’s ‘Saxon Round Tower’ Churches > > > > >Rachael Hale aka the ‘History Magpie’ commented: “Many thanks for sharing this, Lynne. You have some wonderful photos and it’s lovely to know that there are other people as nutty as me about buildings. I’ll be back to see what other treasures you find shortly. Happy travels!” >

    1. Thank you David, glad you liked the photos, they were taken 4 years when I first started my blog…..lots of churches have been explored since then, but St Mary’s has always been a favourite, mainly due to the round tower, there are other round towers, but this has more features than most. I have had a look at your blog, and read about a couple of churches, I will have more time later to read up on them. Lovely photos and a mine of information. Its quite interesting how each counties church are different to each other, never fails to amaze me when I entered a church at what I am gong to find, but even the plainest of churches will have something. Thank you for your link and if you fancy looking at more of my churches, there are plenty, ha ha especially Norfolk 🙂 Lynne

    1. Thank you Paul……I think I have explored about 30, still have a few more to post about. Looking at the website I have a lot more to do. When I do a post in future I will add your link if that is ok with you.
      Regards, Lynne

  2. Haddiscoe illustrates well the changeover from Saxon to Norman architecture: with lots of Saxon features such as twin belfry openings with triangular heads, tall tower arch and narrow nave, but built with the extensive use of Caen stone which was available in East Anglia only towards the end of the C11. So a late C11 or early C12 date is most likely.

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