Pocahontas and the Messy Church of Heacham, Norfolk

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It’s funny but you really have no idea what to expect when you open a church door and I really didn’t expect to find what I did, when I opened the door to this church with its beautifully looked after church yard, even with a designated wild part, in a lovely village.

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When you push back that big heavy door and step inside you are greeted with an explosion of colour and a wonderful poster. Its proud to be a messy church, I think its a lovely used church and is used to the full.  This lovely messy church is St Mary the Virgin, Heacham.  The blue of the chairs just makes the church seem so vibrant and on the hard pews there are soft cushions to sit on and children’s paintings and handmade banners adorn the church walls

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The church is built from local Carstone and is used with other stones, it is a soft sandstone which hardens with age and gives it a nice brown colour and is sometimes called ‘honey stone’.  The church dates from the 12th century and the belfry has circular openings on each side and indicate its great antiquity.  A cupola crown on the top which contains the original 12th century bell, and is possibly the oldest in East Anglia.

If you look at the bottoms of the large piers which are 13th century, there are circular stone seats, such seats pre-date the use of wooden benches in the nave and so the fit and strong stood whilst the weakest went to the wall (this from the little church guide).  There are some medieval painting on the tower arch, it took me a long time to find it, but then it is 500 years old and just a bit faded, it does look like there could have been a lot more on the piers and arches.  There is some stained glass which is 19th century but the little figures of the saints are 15th century.

I nearly missed the memorial to Princess Pocahontas, who married John Rolfe of Heacham in 1614, which brought peace between the settlers in Virginia and the indigenous Indians.  Below it there is an older memorial with a brass plate of 1594 another John Rolfe her father-in-law.

The church tower is eight hundred years old, but in the 1800’s an extraordinary buttress on the north side was considered necessary to support it. Having walk around the church one could not help but noticed that the buttress is having some work carried out, it is interesting to see how they do it.

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Heacham has a lovely beach that you can walk for miles and where we often take our dogs for a walk.

12 comments

  1. What a great church 🙂 It is interesting seeing how they do repairs. I was in Lincoln last year and there was a lot of work being done to the cathedral and they were taking on apprentice stonemasons and stained glass window artists. I think it’s great that they are keeping these crafts alive.

    1. My Grandfather started as an apprentice stonemason and he was also a grave digger….had some tales to tell about that 🙂 It was a lovely happy warm church and visiting so many that are redundant it was a pleasure to visit that one.

  2. I feel sorry for Pocahontas – the only mental image I have is from Disney – and the memorial only has John Rolfe’s bust – I can’t help thinking she’d have been more interesting to look at.

  3. I enjoy visiting Heacham… although it can get awfully cold on the beach when the wind is blowing in winter (well any time of year here!).. tho’ I think Holkham Beach can be the coldest!

    1. You are so right…..I have several hats…..Heacham is our nearest beach for dog walking, Holkham is lovely but a bit further along. But when the sun is shining and the wind is warm and the tourists abound…..no rather have it to ourselves in the winter 🙂

  4. These are fantastic photos, Lynne and I love the idea of an all purpose ‘messy’ church too. It certainly brings this one to life. Intriguing to see Pocahontas mentioned as she has strong links to Kent too and was supposed to be buried in Gravesend. It’s a trip I keep meaning to make 🙂

    1. Hi Rachael, I think Pocahontas is buried in Gravesend, this is just a memorial to her as John Rolfe came from Heacham. Its such a bright church with the blue and so comfy, nothing really outstanding, just a lovely church and glad you like the photos 🙂

  5. Did you know there is a new documentary film launched five weeks ago Nov 2016 made by CBN Jamestown available from CBN Europe at Hereford on a DVD for only £10 POCAHONTAS-DOVE OF PEACE that is very well filmed
    Yesterday 5th January 2017 was the 400th Anniversary of when Princess Pocahontas was invited to WHITEHALL PALACE in London on Twelfth Night by King James 1 and Queen Anne to present her with an important and  special thank you gift a 1617 bible for saving the lives of the  first starving English Settlers who built a Fort at Jamestown who would have certainly all died in 1607 and 1608 without  her fathers and her families help bringing vital food supplies. Princess Pocahontas also visited John Rolfes mother and his stepfather the Chancellor of Norwich Cathedral Dr Robert Redmayne in 1616-1617 at Heacham and other relatives with John Rolfe and their toddler son Thomas and to the old Boston Indian Queen Inn and legend says she planted a mulberry tree at Heacham Hall in 1617 which is probably the old tree growing outside the Manor Hotel as on the old Heacham 1610 map in Norwich Records ids marked HEACHAM HALL GROUNDES above the Manor originally a Cluniac Priory for monks taken over in 1551 when they left by the 3rd Duke of Norfolks family Sir Thomas Howard
    The seeds of this old tree might have come from the oldest mulberry tree in England 1548 at SYON HOUSE where Princess Pocahontas stayed in their two cottages at Brentford or from King James 1 planted in the Queens Gardens
    John Rolfes Jamestown tobacco plants in Virginia USA and others in Germany are being used to make six new important drugs in 2013 for Ebola -ZMAPP that saved the lives of TWO doctors from USA and Flu Cancer Parkinsons Malaria and Schizophrenia .So John Rolfe was hugely important as well as Princess Pocahontas and Thomas Rolfe who is the great great uncle to the First President George Washington -a very important family in world Anglo American history and again NOW and his fathers Geneva 1580 bible at Williamsburg Uni Library is the second oldest bible in America
    Visit again this summer for the updated exhibition as more clues are being researched for these old mulberry TREES and the old bibles !

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