Friday, 27 September 2013

Bawdeswell - The Church with Nine Lives

Is this the most unlucky church in Norfolk? 

It is is not what you would normally expect of a Norfolk church - it is not made of knapped flint, it isn't very old and it is in a Georgian rather than a Gothic style.  It is the church of All Saints, in Bawdeswell, built in 1953 and designed by a local architect, J Fletcher Watson. 

There has been a church on this site possibly from around 1100 when some remains were found underneath the present building.  The first rector is recorded as William De Measdone, who was presented in 1313. 

The original building was of flint, typical of the area, with a square tower and four bells.  In 1739, possibly due to lack of maintenance, the tower collapsed.  Flint is a difficult material to use, due to its irregular shape and whilst some grander buildings were constructed of squared flints of great quality, most country churches did not have enough money for anything other than cobbles or round knapped flint.  Unless the mortar is repaired, it deteriorates and crumbles away, allowing large areas of flint to fall out (which can happen very suddenly, without warning).

After selling four of the bells to raise money, the tower was rebuilt in brick, but was either badly constructed or maintained, as it collapsed again in 1828.  By 1843, the building was in such a poor state it was demolished and a new church built.  The architect, John Brown, was well known in the area for his ecclesiastical architecture, and the new church had a bellcote for the single remaining bell, a transept and was in the high Gothic style beloved of the time. 

Unfortunately, the building did not quite reach its 100th birthday.  In November 1944, an RAF Mosquito was on its way back from bombing Germany.  The weather was poor and it is likely that it iced up and the pilot lost control.  After hitting power lines, it crashed straight into the church, which was set on fire and completely destroyed.  Parts of the aircraft hit buildings across the road and the crew were killed.

The War Office awarded the Parish some money for a replacement and this lovely new building was the result.  The interior is light, gracefully proportioned and has the most wonderful three tiered pulpit.  There is a memorial to the dead pilots made of parts of the crashed Mosquito.

Unlucky?  Or a monument to the tenacity of the people of Bawdeswell?

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