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All Saints Church 


1.) Transcribed from a report by Edward D. Stone, Rector 1923-25

At the Christian era East Anglia was peopled by the Iceni, a very war-like race of Britons. In those days, Horsey was an island, situated at the mouth of a great bay which extended inland almost as far as Norwich. The religious life of each British village centred around it's Sacred Settlement Stone and later on, after Christianity had come to Britain, when a village was converted to the Faith, the event was marked by the mortising of the base of a wooden cross into the venerated stone. In Christian times every village had it's Churchyard Cross - usually before it had it's Church, and it is probable that in the stone which lies near the Churchyard gate, we have a link with early Church history in Horsey. A few other links with ancient times have been found in this Parish - a coin of the Emperor Vispasion, who reigned AD 70; also a small urn, possibly Roman, but probably Anglo Saxon, were discovered when Horsey Hall was rebuilt in 1845. Also, two Querns for grinding corn, were found nearby in the village. 

The Roman conquest of Britain began in AD 43. It is not known when the Christian faith first reached East Anglia, but in the year 176 there was fierce persecution in Gaul, and many Christians were driven from that land, to settle in Britain. Long before AD 400, Christianity was the religion of the great majority of the people, and the British Church had an efficient dioceson organisation with it's Bishops, Monastries and Clergy.  Then came the dark and terrible times of the Anglo Saxon invasions, when the unhappy Britons who survived were utterly impoverished and enslaved, and Church life was crushed out. But in 630 Sigebert, an earnest Christian, became King of East Anglia, and St. Felix of Bergundy was consecrated first Bishop of the East Anglian Diocese, but further dark and tragic times were to come, and from 793 to 1016 Church life was again extinguished in the years of the Danish invasions. In the latter years however, Canute the Dane became King of England, and shortly afterwards became a Christian. Persecution therefore ceased, and the Faith spread rapidly.

By far the larger number of Anglo Saxon Churches were constructed of wood or wattles, and if there was a Church in Horsey in those days, all traces of it have persihed. The oldest part of the existing structure is the lower part of the tower, which archaelogists say was built in the Norman period, i.e. before 1150. They tell us that the Nave and Chancel were built about 1260 and it was probably at the same time that the Archway between the Tower and the Nave was heightened. The font appears to be of about the same date, and is certainly not many years later.

PETER BARDULPH in 1212 stated that he was Rector of the parish, and that he had been presented by GODWIN de HORSEY, whose son and heir Adam has appropriated the living, about 1212, to the Canon of Hickling. There was evidently some flaw in the transaction, for in 1219 or 1220 we find THOMAS BARDOLF giving the allowance to the Prior and Convent of Hickling - the same people under another name. Thereafter Horsey was served by a Vicar presented by the Prior and Convent, the Vicar having the lesser tithes only, while the Priory had the greater tithes and also the Rectory house. In 1535 as the Valor Ecclesiastions proves, the Vicars income after deduction of ecclesiastical and civil taxes, amounted only to 55s. 2 1/4d.  Even if money at that time was worth twenty times its present value, as some writers think it might have been, the Vicar of Horsey was a poor man financially.

In the 15th century, Horsey Church had five Gilds, dedicated respectively to ALL SAINTS - ST. MARY - ST. ANN - and ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST. It is not definitely known to whom the fifth Gild was dedicated, but it was probably ST. ERASMUS. The Gilds joined all classes together, primarily to provide a Chaplain to say Masses for the welfare of the departed, but also to care for the needy, and for objects of common welfare. The forms and practice of religion were the mainspring of their existence, and the activities of the Parish Gilds centred around the parish Church.

It was a sad day for England when, in 1547, the classes holding political power ruthlessly suppressed the Gilds, and robbed and despoiled them of their entire endowments and funds. During the 15th century, while the Gilds were still in being, there was erected in Horsey Church the beautiful Rood Screen, which originally had it's Rood Loft, to which the steps in the North wall of the Church led; the tower was heightened by the addition of the octagonal top, and the porch was built.

In 1536 the Priory of Hickling was dissolved and its possessions were given to the Bishop of Norwich, but in 1542 Bishop RUGG alienated them to William WOODHOUSE - Gent - afterwards Sir William WOODHOUSE. His son and heir, Sir Henry WOODHOUSE, owing to his extravagance, got into financial difficulties and had to sell much of his property to pay his debts, and in 1589 the Rectory and Advowson of Horsey were in the hands of Edmund CLERE, Esq: but about 1596 they passed by sale to Sir William PASTON,KUT who, in 1609, conveyed them to the Trustees of the Free Grammar School at North Walsham, which he had founded. Sir William PASTON also purchased the Manor which had been successively, and by descent - sometimes through the female line - the property of the Ingham STAPELTON and CALTHORPE families. The small manor to which the Advowson had originally been attached had been seized by Elizabeth, widow of Sir Oliver de INGHAM, when Thomas de HORSEY was hanged in 1286. Though Isobel, widow of Thomas de HORSEY had law on her side, and gained the favour of a jury in her favour, the Lady Elizabeth de INGHAM remained in possession. One can only hope that she gave poor Isobel some pecuniary compensation.

Edmund WHISTED, the last Vicar presented by Hickling Priory, was still incumbent in 1535. After his time, the Parish was served by parochial Chaplains or Curates until 1609, when a Vicar was again instituted. It isn't known by whom the Church was served between the years of 1638 and 1681. The Parish was worked by the Curates from 1681 to 1776, when William IVORY was instituted Vicar. There has been no break in the succession of incumbents since then, but their work was delegated to Curates in the years 1785 to 1793 and 1802 to 1853. The living became a Recory again in 1921, when Lady LUCAS, the then Lord of the manor, gave the Advowson to the Bishop of Norwich, and her rectorial rights to the incumbent of Horsey.

A few items of interest may be briefly noted: 

  • The Church from ancient times, has been dedicated to ALL SAINTS.     
  • The Registers commence in the year 1559.  
  • The bell was cast in 1597 by john BRENT,Senior.  
  • There is an interesting Chalice, bearing the inscription: "FOR THE TOWNE OF HORSIE IN THE COUNTY OF NORFOLK, ANO: DOM: 1666 H P & W M"  
  • The Tower roof is covered with lead embossed: "LM 1721"  

Between the years 1854 and 1866, the Church was restored, mainly at the expense of the RISING family. The old stone work of the East Window, and of the windows in the Nave and the lower part of the Tower, was replaced by new, as also were the doors. New Altar Rails, Choir Stalls, Pulpit and Reading Desk were provided, and six additional Pews were placed at the West end of the Church. 

  2).  Transcribed from a undated report/guide (circa 1970's?) signed "W.J.G"


The ancient thatched Church that has been described as Norman by all Church historians. I believe the features I have noted will satisfy my readers that this Church and Tower were here before the Normans landed at Hastings and had, in fact, probably been built 100 years earlier. 

The Church plan is a round west Tower with an octagonal upper stage, nave and chancel of the same width and south porch. A very simple plan that has only been altered by the addition of the south porch and octagonal belfry stage, since the church was built. 

The church is a simple rectangle, with nave and chancel the same width, and it is roofed with reed thatch in traditional Norfolk style (Church has been rethatched since this report was written). I believe that all these simple churches where the nave,and chancel are the same width are not only pre-Conquest, but pre-1000 AD or period C1. The low circular tower, only just above nave height, was raised by a tall octagonal stage in the 15th century when the south porch was also added. This porch, constructed of whole and cut flints to the sides, and cut white flints at the entrance, now has it's niche over the entrance blocked up.

The walling of both tower and church is of uncoursed flintwork with large mortar joints, pointing to early work. But it is the western corners that give us our first positive Saxon features. The S.W. quoin is constructed of flints and tiles, with some brick used in repairs. The N.W. quoin appears at first to be lost in the massive flint buttress built to support this corner, but close inspection reveals it can still be seen as a vertical line of large flints. All the windows, save one, in the chancel are from the Perpendicular period, but the east window has been restored, probably in the 1855 restoration. Most of the other windows require urgent attention

In the porch are three floor slabs, and one is a shaped stone that could well be a gravestone from the churchyard. The doorstep into the church is a stone coffin lid; quite an unusual material for this purpose, but it is certainly a way to get the maximum use from it. Inside, we find the chancel has a an early single-framed roof, and the walls slope as they rise, an early feature that uses less material as less strength is needed higher up. The N.W. corner is very noticeable internally to have given trouble over many years due to subsidence. The massive buttresses outside, and the slabs of dressed stone inserted in the nave wall appears to have been insufficient to hold this corner, and later efforts to stabilise the corner has included a steel tie-rod from North to South through the nave.

In the north Sanctuary wall are three small aumbries, (cupboards  ), still with their hinges in position. On the south, is a piscina (basin with drain, for washing the chalice ), with a deep circular basin under a round-headed arch and with a broken tracery. In the north wall of the nave, the old rood staircase is complete with upper and lower doorways, and beside this the simple but well-carved Perpendicular screen has six unpainted panels at the base, and ogee arches and panel tracery above.

Across the 13th century north doorway is a simple wooden Church Chest with three locks, and not far away is the perpendicular font. It has a large octagonal basin with simple window tracery on a massive octagonal stem. The centre of the church is paved with Victorian tiles, no doubt another item from the 1855 restoration. Much of the woodwork is early, probably from the perpendicular period. the benches are mainly from this period with nicely carved poppy heads, and those nearest the chancel have brattishing (delicate carved openwork), to the backs. The lectern cum readers desk, is surprising, but could it be part of a three-decker pulpit? The pulpit itself, on the south, I could not date, but it certainly looks early and would pay closer inspection. The choir stalls, although by no means special, are also from the perpendicular period. in fact, quite a lot of useful furniture if recognised and displayed at their best.

The tower arch is tall and narrow with a pointed head and has two steps on either side of it's lower centre. The jambs appear to be of flint rubble, and support my opinion that only the head has been changed since Saxon days. So far I have not been able to see inside the tower but I hope that later this year I may be able to do so and record my findings in a later issue. I feel certain the original Saxon belfry windows will still be visible near the top of the circular section, but whether an upper doorway will also show, is something we always hope to see but it is not always realised. 

Three of the windows have stained glass. The north nave double-light window has stained glass dated 1871. The eastern window to the south of the chancel has its stained glass dated 1872. Next to this window is one that is of outstanding interest, for it commemorates "Catherine Ursula RISING", and is dated 1890. The surprising thing about this picture is that the lady herself is represented in the painting, and not St. Luke, the patron saint of painters.

On my earlier visits, this fine church looked very much neglected and forlorn, and from my talks to the then priest in charge, it seemed that this church would soon be declared redundant. Now, I am pleased to say, a new enthusiasm appears to have awakened the village and they are seeking ways and means to restore this unique church. Much work will need to be done, and much money spent, but with the government now ready to help in this work of restoration, much can be done even in these very small villages.


Horsey Photohistory

A Genealogical CD, in PDF format so can be read by any computer, containing almost 200 high quality photographs, all from private sources, depicting the life and times of this idyllic Norfolk Broadland village.

Never-before-seen photographs of the Horsey Flood of 1938, together with people and events in village life, covering the past 120 years.

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