A Church Tour         

A 'Virtual' Tour of Mulbarton Church 

....is magnificent! It was built over 500 years ago and can be seen from miles around. Since the mid-1980s the tower has been floodlit each evening. It was used by the Ordnance Survey for surveying their maps. - there is a fine view from the top!

Repairs, 1959 - note Post Office, garage, Wingfield Hall and Chapel on far side of pond.
Repairs, 1959 - note Post Office, garage, Wingfield Hall and Chapel on far side of pond.

The view above was taken when the tower was being repaired in 1959 at the conclusion of a programme of repairs that began with a survey of the building in 1956. This meant the tower had to be surrounded by scaffolding for many weeks (below).

The tower tells us a lot about local geology. It is mostly made of local black FLINT - a rock that occurs in chalk. The mortar is made from local CHALK. Flints are too small to make good corner-stones, so these are of LIMESTONE from Lincolnshire - 100 miles away. The flints in the buttresses have been skilfully knapped by hand to make them square. There are a few non-local stones. These are almost certainly GLACIAL ERRATICS - stones brought to Mulbarton from northern England by ice-sheets in the Ice Age.

The BRICKS AND TILES in the tower are unusual - there were no bricks or tiles being made in England at the time this tower was built. So they are probably from the ruins of Caister Roman town, 3 miles to the north-east. If so, they date from roughly the time when Jesus was on earth....

CHRIST is made the sure Foundation,
CHRIST the Head and Cornerstone....
(Part of a 7th Century Latin hymn still sung today)

The CLOCK in the tower is Mulbarton's World War 2 memorial, bought by public subscription. (below) It was dedicated on October 8th, 1950.

...the huge and heavy DOORS are made of Norfolk oak. Step over the SILL, which some think may be an old Communion Table - ripped out in the Reformation, 450 years ago. There is some brass set in the stone. 


Look up at the roof of the nave. The beams are oak and the roofing is pine.
Look East along the nave to the great arch. Beyond it is the Chancel, with the Communion Table and the fine East Window.
Look North to three big arches. Beyond is the "North Aisle" - an extension built in 1875, but blending well with the medieval church.
Look West through another great arch to the base of the Tower and the West Window - a distinctive Norfolk feature.

Our 'virtual' exploration follows the same sequence: east, then north, then west. It is an exploration of MEANING as well as of a building.

O enter then His gates with praise
And in His courts His love proclaim;
Give thanks and bless Him all your days,
Let every tongue confess His Name.
(from a hymn based on Psalm 100)

The FONT is near the door.... (photo 108)

The stone FONT is medieval in age and octagonal (8-sided) in shape. The base is probably much older - it may have come from a much older church that stood here, or near here. There was a church here in the time of the Domesday Book, in 1086. The font is now in a poor state of repair and an appeal has been launched for its renovation.

So babies have been baptised here for over a thousand years.  Here, they are welcomed into the local and the universal church. In the baptism service, the parents and Godparents say:      

 "I turn to Christ
I repent of my sins
I renounce evil
I believe and trust in Him."

On the wall behind the font, the strange red smudge is all that remains of a dedication mark that indicates where the church was consecrated (or re-consecrated) by the Bishop in medieval times. You can just make out a cross in the centre, and a 'blob' in each sector. When the floor was lower (before the Victorian heating system was installed) this would have been even higher on the wall. There is more about these dedication marks here. The ancient red lead paint is very fragile, PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH!

Along the NAVE.... 
The NAVE is the main part of the church brightly lit by the two big "perpendicular" windows in the south side. This is one reason why the church usually looks cheerful and welcoming. The windows were reglazed in the 1980s. Near the pulpit, some 17th Century Flemish glass has been incorporated into the window. One piece may show Paul and Timothy in prison in Rome with a visitor, Epaphroditus, who brought gifts from the church in Philippi, in northern Greece.

The PEWS are made of English oak and were added in 1872. They replaced some "box pews" shown on the plans for the Victorian 'makeover'.

The HASSOCKS (kneelers) were made by Mulbarton people in the 1980s to designs by Mrs. Doreen Dean. They show Mulbarton scenes, such as the pond, Mulbarton Hall and the old windmill opposite the church. 

...is between the two windows. It is made of marble. Sixteen Mulbarton men died in World War 1 - quite a large number for a small village. Below is a memorial tablet for the seven men who died 1939-45, but the church clock is the World War 2 memorial. A wreath of poppies is placed below the memorial on Remembrance Sunday in November.

O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last
And our eternal home.
(by Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 90)

On either side of the war memorial are memorials to the TURNER FAMILY. (Photos 039 & 040) They span 442 years (1547 to 1889). Their graves are beyond the east end of the church. Their descendants still farm in Mulbarton.

The oak PULPIT....

...is seven-sided, perhaps to represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Find out what these are on one of the Rich memorials later.) The outside of the pulpit is carved, and a brass plaque states:  
           The pulpit and prayer-desk were given by several parishioners at the time the church 
           was benched by the Rector: October 1872.
From in or near the pulpit, God's word is expounded every week.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119, verse 105)

....is the eastern part of the Church, beyond the great arch.

The PEW-ENDS here are exceptionally well carved and are all different. One shows wheat, for the bread of Communion. Another shows a vine and grapes, for the wine. 

The COMMUNION TABLE was given in 1937, when this end of the church was refurbished. The chalice (cup) used at Communion was made in Norwich by the renowned silversmith William Cobbold in his London Street workshop - until recently the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop. Its cover is inscribed 'Ye TOWNE OF MULBARTON, 1567'. It has been used for 450 years, and is still used almost every Sunday. The church welcomes all Christians who are communicant members of other churches to the Lord's Table.

Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sins forgiven.
(Hymn by H. Bonar, 1808-1889)


....are of 'Decorated' style - an older style than the windows in the nave. The GREAT EAST WINDOW is one of the treasures of Mulbarton church. (below left) Some of the glass is muddled, with Latin words in the wrong place and letters upside down.

In the centre window, Adam is working the land barefoot - with a spade used in Medieval times. (below) This is 15th Century glass. To find the matching picture of Eve spinning, you have to visit Martham Church, 25 miles away. But a former Rector came from Martham Church and brought this old glass with him!

The right window has a man holding a chained dragon with the slogan 'POTESTATES' (powers). A reminder of the need to conquer the devil and temptation.

The SOUTH WINDOWS of the Chancel also have fragments of old glass. (above) There is a King or Bishop holding a mitre, and a child being taught to read. The teacher's head may be a Jewish rabbi, but the body is probably Anna, traditionally the mother of the Virgin Mary. The two kneeling figures of a monk and a nun are from an abbey in Germany - its glass was sold as a 'job lot' to a Norwich merchant when the abbey closed! (above right)

....are mainly to former Rectors and Lords of the Manor. On the floor is a slab marking where the Rev. Anthony Frere (Rector 1616-1660) is buried. He came in the time of Charles I and served to the time of Charles II. (below left) Memorials on the wall tell us about the Rector who built the (old) Rectory; the Lords of the Manor in the 18th Century (memorial to John Balls 2nd from left); a lady who lived to 103 (2nd from right); and an unusual brass memorial in the form of a book with a hinged cover, standing on a closed Bible. It has an inscription to Mrs. Sarah Scargill, "cozin to Sir William le Neve, Herauld to King Charles the First of blessed memory". She was the wife of Rev. Daniel Scargill (Rector 1672-1721) who wrote the poem that speaks of his undying love. (right)

Behind the curtains beneath the East Window is another memorial - a Reredos showing Jesus appearing to St Mary Magdalen after his resurrection. It was place here in 1937 and the boards with the Creed, Commandments and Lord's Prayer were taken to the west end. The inscription says:    

To the glory of God and in memory of William Ray Eaton, 
Priest, erected by his daughters 1937

Rev. William Eaton (1828-1915) was a Rector of nearby Bracon Ash, but he was buried at Mulbarton and the memorial to him and his wife, Frances, is by the back gate to the Rectory. One of his daughters - Ellen Mary - married Rev. Charles B P Ramsay in 1910, and he was Rector of Mulbarton from 1933 until he died in 1942. We do not know who carved and painted it - possibly one of the family.

The VESTRY....
.... was added as part of the 1875 extension see plan below). At a wedding, the registers are either signed here or at the Communion table. Mulbarton Church has registers dating from the 1547, most of which can be seen at the Norfolk Records Office.

Trancripts of Registers can be seen here:  Baptisms;   Burials; Marriages (Groom alphabetical and Bride alphabetical by surname)

....was built in 1875 - plan below. The windows were designed to match the south side, but are smaller. 

The ORGAN was installed in 1887 (at a cost of £125) to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It has an interesting plaque which tells us that the electric organ-blower was given in 1949 as a thank-offering for victory in World War 2. Before 1949, the organ would have been pumped by hand! One who remembers pumping the organ is a certain young footballer, Maurice Norman..... Arthur Bussey was organist in this church for 71 years - from 1910 to 1981.

Sing a new song and rejoice,
Publish His praises abroad!
Let voices in chorus, with trumpet and organ,
Resound for the joy of the Lord!
(From a hymn by Timothy Dudley-Smith, Bishop of Thetford 1974-1991, 
who preached in Mulbarton Church in 1989.)

The niche in the north wall used to be the access to a chimney of the old under-floor heating system! The LIST OF RECTORS OF MULBARTON (on the Events & Rectors page) shows that this church has had an uninterrupted Christian ministry for at least 675 years, since 1329. In 1452, Keningham ( a mile south-east of Mulbarton) was merged with Mulbarton and the church there became a ruin long ago. Since 1998 our Rector has served four churches. 

A window at the north end of the north aisle is a memorial to Emma Dorinda Wingfield, a benefactress of the village who died in 1906. She lived in Mulbarton Hall, and her name was also commemorated in the Wingfield Hall.

The WEST END of the nave.... (above)
....used to have a gallery before the north aisle was built in 1875. It still has two interesting memorials to members of the RICH FAMILY. To the right of the arch is the memorial to "Sir Edwin Rich whoe loved the poor". He died in 1675, but his advice is still sound today:

Soe speake to God as if men heard your talke
Soe lyve with men as if God sawe your walke.

The poem refers to the stone 'hour-glass' that rests on the book above the monument, which has recently been restored. Sir Edwin was one of the Lords of the Manor of Mulbarton, and the Rich Charity which he founded still helps needy people in the village.

To the left of the arch, on the wall near the main door to the church, is a memorial to his father that was moved from the old north wall of the church. This is to another Sir Edwin Rich, who bought the Manor of Mulbarton and died in 1651. This memorial reminds us of the fruits of the Spirit:

Joy, Faith, Peace, Hope, Charitie, Humilitie, Love

A tablet to the left of the arch tells us about another charity - the Bennett's Bread Charity. When Benjamin Bennett of Swardeston died in 1879, he left £100 for the Minister and Churchwardens to invest and use the dividends to provide poor inhabitants of the Parish with bread during the winter months. But the investment now produces barely enough for one large loaf a year.

High above the arch is a HATCHMENT - a coat of arms on a diamond-shaped board. The Latin mottoe is CURA NE CURES ("Take care not to worry"). The arms are of Edmund Hooke, who lived in The Lodge, in Rectory Lane, and died in 1811. The Hatchment would have been painted when he died and carried to the church as part of his funeral procession.

....is beyond the arch. Beside the doors to the Tower are painted in gold:

THE CREED, "I believe in God...."

THE LORD'S PRAYER, "Our Father....". 

On the wall inside the tower are the TEN COMMANDMENTS. These panels were moved from the wall at the east end of the church when the chancel was renovated in 1937.

Interior of Mulbarton Church before the War Memorial was added. The boards beneath the E window are now at the W end.
Interior of Mulbarton Church before the War Memorial was added. The boards beneath the E window are now at the W end.

The west window in the tower shows the Virgin Mary - NOT St. Mary Magdalen, the patron of the church. The six ropes are each attached to a bell. We do not know when the first bell was added to the tower, but four rang out when Queen Elizabeth I passed here in 1578. Bell no.4 has the inscription anno dni 1616. A 5th bell was probably added in the 18th century. The Mulbarton ringers travelled far and wide during the 18th and 19th centuries, to ringing competitions, which were popular events in Norfolk. The treble of the ring of five was recast in 1808, and by 1897 extensive repairs took place, which are commemorated on a brass plaque in the ringing chamber:

'These bells were re-hung at a cost of £100 in commemoration
of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria - 1897'

In 1904 a new bell-frame was needed, and Shaws of Bradford provided a new metal frame designed for six bells. They recast the second of the five bells at the same time. The sixth pit was filled in 1947, when a treble bell was given by the late Mr. & Mrs. Middleton of Mulbarton Post Office in memory of their son, Geoffrey, who was killed in action at Dunkirk in 1940. Mr. Frederick Middleton was himself a bellringer and for some years Master of the Company at Mulbarton.  

The Mulbarton peal is tuned in the key of A major. The ring of six was very popular with visiting peal ringers in the 1950's and 1960's, over 50 peals having been rung during that period. The two first peals, in 1946 and 1947, are commemorated on a board that hangs in the tower.
The timber ladders to the second storey silence chamber were replaced in 1984 with a metal ladder from a redundant railway signal mear Norwich station!

And when the great church bell
Peels over hill and dale
May JESUS CHRIST be praised!
(from an 18th century German hymn)

The PORCH...
....had an upper storey until the rebuilding work of 1875: this was the Priest's Room and is shown on a print made in 1822:

In the porch, above the church door, is an unusual memorial listing ALL the Mulbarton men who served in World War 1. Those who died are in gold. This was made by a Mulbarton craftsman (see heading of Wartime page).

The Christian faith is found OUTSIDE the church as well as inside:

For Thou, within no walls confined
Inhabitest the humble mind.
Such ever bring Thee where they come,
And going, take Thee to their home.
(W. Cowper, 1731-1800, who lived in Dereham, Norfolk)


....is a conservation area, with fine primroses in spring and many other wild flowers. The yew trees near the fence - with another row east of the church - are estimated to be 220 years old. This means they began life around 1800, though may not have been planted in the churchyard until Richard Spurgeon was Rector and maybe sought to 'beautify' the churchyard as well as the church! A print dated 1822 (above) does not show any yew trees - unless they are some of the foreground shrubs.

Yews are slow-growing - as you can see if you look at the Millennium Yew in the churchyard extension (reached by either path through the churchyard) which was about 20cm high in 2000 and is less than a metre high nearly 20 years later! 

But take time to look at the much older gravestones near the church....

At the east end of the church are many graves of the TURNER family (see above). Nearby is the oldest gravestone, commemorating Thomas Diver who died in 1696. Further east (near the hedge of the churchyard extension) is the red granite grave of SIR WILLIAM BELLAIRS (1793-1863) of The Lodge which lists seven battles in which he fought against the French, including the Battle of Waterloo. 

Many Mulbarton gravestones have verses of poems or hymns, or verses from the Bible:

"I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job chap. 19 verse 25)

"Blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job chap. 1, verse 21)

"Jesus said. 'My sheep listen to my voice, and none can pluck them from my hand'"  (John chap. 10, verse 27)

"Whoever lives and believes in me sill never die" (John chap. 11, verse 26)

All the Monumental Inscriptions have been recorded by the Mulbarton Heritage Group (below) and a list is  available here.