Norwich, Norfolk – St Gregory

I only managed two churches on these few days in Norfolk. There are lots of churches in Norwich, and after a few hours in the Castle Museum we ended up in St Gregory’s, which is now an antiques centre. They used to say that Norwich had a pub for every day of the year and a church for every week of the year – so what do you do with the churches we no longer need? Norwich Historic Churches Trust has a collection of such churches, and this one is on their website – https://www.nhct-norwich.org/our-churches/st-gregory/. There is a short film where one of the traders talks about how the church is special for her. The website https://norwichmedievalchurches.org/2017/10/18/st-gregory/ has a 10 minute film about a gorgeous painted screen which is now in store in Norfolk Museums, and the same site has a link to a pdf guide leaflet – there was nothing available in the church. Simon Knott visited the church a while ago – http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norwichgregory/norwichgregory.htm.

It is suggested that St Gregory’s is one of the earliest parishes in Norwich. Although there is no documentary evidence before the C13, its parish boundaries seem to be earlier than some of the other churches nearby – the leaflet says its parish “intrudes” onto areas that other parishes might have been expected to have had if their churches were built first. The nave design is abut 1380, payment for the chancel was made in 1394, and the high altar dedicated in 1401. It was closely linked to the Priory at the Cathedral, and the church’s income paid for the infirmary. It is suggested that the design can be attributed to Robert Wodehirst (Wadherst), who was ‘master’ at the cathedral cloister in 1385-86. Apparently, though I didn’t check, the altar is so high as a roadway ran underneath it. There is no chancel arch, but plenty of steps.

St Gregory’s is now an antiques centre, and they had an interesting selection of stuff. I assume it is Joseph and Jesus happily next to Buddha, the altar has an interesting selection of clothes and pictures, and I could have spent lots of money on model trains.

The roof is rather lovely, and there are some nice carvings and angels looking down on it all.

The vault of the western tower, which has an octagonal central opening in it to facilitate hoisting bells up to the top stage, is clearly based on the octagon at Ely. Apparently this can also be used to bolster the suggestion that the mason Robert Wodehirst was involved in the design as he is recorded working at Ely between 1387 and 1393. It would be fascinating to research the lives of some of these Master Masons – one day!

There are also some fascinating memorials, but there are also some worrying signs that all is not well with the structure of the building.

I wonder when the organ was last played. Interesting wall painting at the west end.

I went down into a sort of crypt, with some angelic glass (and more stuff to buy).

The font is hidden behind a selection of stalls and screens. Is it really wise to have such a plethora of extension leads – if we did this in a working church, the architect and Archdeacon would not be happy. I left thinking that, while an Antiques Centre is a perfectly good use for a redundant church, is the money ever going to be found for the upkeep and maintenance that is obviously needed?

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