St Mary’s Church took some finding, in the middle of nowhere and I mean nowhere, you drive down the side of a field, through some woods and suddenly you see the church tower. Its down to a remarkable man, Bob Davey who is 83, and has been restoring St Mary’s in the abandoned medieval village of Houghton-on-the-Hill, near Swaffham, Norfolk, since his wife discovered it while leading a Women’s Institute ramble 20 years ago.
Back in 1992, the church was covered in ivy and had no roof or floor, Mr Davey said it was damaged by a German Zeppelin in the first world war and then followed decades of vandalism. The nave dates from about 1,000AD and when restoring the building, it was only as layers of whitewash were removed, that the building’s true glory became clear – the oldest wall paintings in the country came to light. Romanesque wall paintings are very rare, and the paintings could date from 1090, there is still more to uncover, but the next stage will cost 50,000 and at the moment the funds do not reach that amount.
Mr Davey with the help of some friends, opens the church every afternoon from 2pm to 4pm, we were lucky Mr Davey was in the church when we visited. He was giving some visitors a tour of the church, I listened in, while I took my photos and it was lovely to hear his passion for the church.
The church is all that remains of the lost village, it is thought that the plague help diminish the village. The church now sits in a lovely garden, we must return in the summer when all the plants are flowering and take some more photos.