A thousand children attending beach missions over the years will have sung, “Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heaven above….” For all the seaside fripperies, Cromer is a liminal place, somewhere on the edge and the pier a safe pathway across the threshold. In many cultures and across time the sea has been used as a simile for the divine and the horizon a metaphor for death.
Somewhere beyond the lifeboat station, underwater is all that is left of the church of St.Peter’s, Shipden. The name Peter means a rock in Greek and the saint was a fisherman,. How cool is it, that all that is left of the church is a feature on the chart that reads ” Church Rock” ! By contrast, the tower of St. Peter and St. Paul Church is 160 feet in height, the tallest church tower in Norfolk. Before the lighthouse was built in seventeenth century, it was the church tower that provided a guiding light for mariners.
The themes of the Church as a guide and the shared mission of Church and lifeboat to save souls have provided rich seams for generations of preachers in the town.
Pre-dating the Hall, parts of St.Margaret’s Church are said to date back to the eleventh century, when returning Crusaders brought back a devotion to the saint from Antioch. The myth surrounding Margaret tells a story of her escape from the devil, in the form of a dragon that had swallowed her. A miraculous escape from prison may be the history that underlies the myth. In pre-Reformation devotion, Margaret was the go to saint for women facing the dangers of childbirth. Answered prayer? In part! The development of modern obstetrics and midwifery have greatly reduced the dangers to life. Across the world there is much left to be done. Felbrigg is as good a place as any, to bend the knee where prayer has been valid and join the flood of prayer that still pours out from humankind.
The church tower was added in fifteenth century by Simon de Felbrigg. (see also under Erpingham) .
St.Peter’s, Sustead is still recognisably a working church. It retains its round tower from 11th/12th century but has many 14th and 15th century and modern touches, not least the red brick patching in the walls. Like human-beings and our human institutions, the church is clearly a multi-generational entity. Sustead’s most famous resident at the end of the eighteenth century was Humphrey Repton, the great architect and garden designer (see also under Aylsham)
All Saints’, Twaite is a round towered church dating from the 12th century. Somewhere to sit sheltered from the worst of the weather. Like all the heritage churches along the Weavers Way, All Saints’ also provides shelter from the relentless change that undermines human well-being in 21st century. Switch your phone off. Sit and breathe.
St Mary the Virgin, Erpingham is half a mile to the east of the Weavers Way, Calthorpe Church an equal distance to the west. In Erpingham Church, there is a memorial brass for Sir John Erpingham placed by his son Sir Thomas. It was he who initiated the work to build the tower with its coats of arms and the name Erpingham picked out in stone. Sir Thomas Erpingham led the English archers at the Battle of Agincourt. Shakespear’s lines spoken by Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt come to mind. Simon de Felbrigg, a fellow Knight of the Garter and a near neighbour of Erpingham, was also among the few who fought at Agincourt.
A persistent local story asserts that Sir Thomas was one of the Lollard Knights, a supporter of John Wycliffe’s policy of making the Bible available in English rather than Latin. It is thought that Thomas’ brother was a Dominican friar based in Norwich and there is an interesting guess that the celebrated anchorite, Julian of Norwich, was his sister! It is absolutlu certain that Thomas was a member of the King’s Council, a fixer who won financial support for Henry V from wealthy Norwich wool merchants and thus secured the City of Norwich’ s 1404 Charter. Thomas was a great benefactor of the Church in Norwich. He built Norwich Cathedral’s Erpingham Gate (maybe as a penance for his Lollardy!) as well as the Blackfriars’ Church Then the Dominican Friary and nowSt.Andrew’s Hall. Within that church he had a stained glass window erected as memorial the knights, esquires and gentlemen of Norfolk who had died without issue. Sir Simon de Felbrigg , is one who died without a male heir and was buried in the Blackfriar’s Church.
Thomas also died, with no direct male heir, he left his estate to his nephew, Sir William Phelip, who was also a veteran of Agincourt. Sir William completed the work on Erpingham church tower. Perhaps it was his idea that the name Erpingham be spelled out at the top .” Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember’d.”
The Boleyn Family lived at Blickling before the present Blickling Hall was built . Ideas of Anne Boleyn’s ghost walking it corridors do not really work. But she was born at Blickling and St.Andrew’s Church, Blickling the hall. The building was extensively restored in Victorian times but is essentially a fifteenth century structure that, probably, replaced an earlier building. It contains several Boleyn memorial brasses.
Given the influence Anne is said to have on Henry VIII’s religious opinions, Blickling has a significant place in the story of the English Reformation. The Boleyn family rose to wealth and prominence through the wool trade – advancing from the status of yeoman farmers to supplying the Queen of England in four short generations.
To continue the Shakespearean references , the Boleyns bought Blickling Manor from Sir John Fastolf/ Falstaff . Sir John was a much more serious soldier than the rollicking rogue The Bard portrays.