St Mary’s Church of the lost Medieval Village of Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

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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.

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16 Replies to “St Mary’s Church of the lost Medieval Village of Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk”

  1. What an incredible place! Mr. Davey should get some kind of an award for the effort he’s put into this church. To think that this could have been here before the Normans came. Mind-boggling!

    1. Mr Davey received an MBE but I have a feeling he would have like if it had been money for the church…..I think he was very proud, but I think the church always comes first……what would we do with out people like him 🙂

      1. An MBE is pretty darn good, but I can understand about the money. Raising funds for any cause is a big job. Probably a bigger job that restoring the church!

    1. Yes it is sad it was allow to fade away, but we have so many here in Norfolk and Suffolk. I have started to try and visit some of them, because they do get worst as each year passes and in some cases there are just a few stones left of a beautiful Medieval church. But we do have some left that are truly beautiful 🙂

      1. Yes, modern are not really built for beauty nowadays, well at least churches are not, really quite ugly, especially in the 60’s and 70’s.

    1. Yes, the whole walls would have been covered and I suppose the red colour would have been a lot darker. I see a lot of little bits of wall paintings in the churches that I visit, the older ones and I suppose they were all painted like this, although these paintings are the oldest I have seen.

  2. What a work of love, and a magnificent achievement! Those paintings alone are fabulous. Mr Davey deserves his award. I assume the next stage is maybe a new roof?

    1. No the next stage is to clear more plaster to undercover more of these wonderful paintings. I think I might have mislead you with one of the photos, the roof is new, but there is a photo that is in the church that shows the progress of the restoration 🙂

  3. My husband and I visited the church today after reading an article in the EDP on Mr Davey’s restoration work. It is truly amazing what has been achieved by Mr Davey and his helpers. The church has a lovely tranquil friendly feeling. We were very lucky to speak to Mr Davey during our visit and he told us some very interesting facts about the church and its restoration. Well worth a visit.

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