Friday, 3 April 2009
The Yare Valley's mysterious deserted churches
FOLLOWING on from Monday's post on the ruins of St Saviour's Church, Surlingham, the obvious question is why? Why does Surlingham have two churches? And why did St Mary's prosper while St Saviour's perished?
St Mary the Virgin (pictured) is actually the older church in the village, dating back to 900 or 1000AD, while St Saviour's is probably 12th century.
Surlingham's late historian Jack Points suggests two possible answers - the Black Death of 1348 or a "Great Flood" of 1607. The Black Death killed one in three people in this part of the world and had a huge impact. Perhaps there were two villages and St Saviour's was hit hardest, leaving the survivors to regroup in one parish? Perhaps the 1607 flood washed away low-lying houses surrounding St Saviour's, again leading to a slow abandoment? The honest answer is that no-one really knows.
But intriguingly Surlingham is far from alone in this regard - even along the Wherryman's Way. St Andrew's Whitlingham has been mentioned in an earlier post while upriver from here, Kirby Bedon has two churches almost opposite each other - one intact the other in ruins. Downriver, the remains of St Margaret's Rockland lie in the very churchyard of Rockland St Mary. When it comes to churches, the Yare Valley holds a lot of secrets which History seems unwilling to relinquish.
* For more on Norfolk's ruined churches - click here and follow the links.