Author Archives: Norwich Medieval Churches

About Norwich Medieval Churches

Studying the Medieval churches of Norwich and celebrating their contribution to our fine, vibrant city. @medievalnorwich

St Martin at Oak (Coslany)


Evidence from the enrolled deed maps indicates the parish to have been a ribbon development extending up Oak Street to Baker Road, with the River Wensum to the west. Given the church’s dedication, it is plausible that at the time of foundation an entrance into Coslany (through a ditch or rampart) was located close to this church – perhaps immediately to the north, just beyond St Martin’s Lane. Churches dedicated to St Martin are very often just inside entrances, referencing the location at which the saint divided his cloak to share with a beggar. The other known examples in Norwich, at Palace Plain and the outer bailey at Norwich Castle, followed the same principle. The church’s popular sobriquet ‘at Oak’ references a tree in the churchyard which contained an image of the Virgin Mary. Together the oak and its icon were a focus for popular devotion and the requested burial place of John Buxton in 1513 and his wife Alicia in 1521.


St Margaret in combusto (St Margaret Fybridge)

This parish was located at the northern extremity of Norwich at the end of Magdalene Street. St Margaret’s stopped being used in the 15th century, perhaps owing to changes in population densities in this peripheral part of the city, but it seems at least part of the building was still standing in the 1670s. Following redevelopment of the site in the 18th and 19th centuries, and bomb damage in the 1940s, the church and parish are known largely through late 20th century archaeological excavations.

Hochstetter 1789 St Margaret in combusto area

Area of St Margaret in combusto, detail from Hochstetter’s map (1789)

St James Pockthorpe

An archaeological watching brief and some excavation at St James Pockthorpe in 1979 established the successive phases in the development of its plan. The earliest church, of the 12th century, consisted of a rectangular nave with a somewhat smaller (shorter and narrower) rectangular chancel to the east. A south porch was subsequently added to the nave. The west tower, with its flanking compartments, came next. Finally, in the 15th century, a south aisle was added which required the destruction of the first porch and led to the building of a new one abutting the tower block.

© Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service

© Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service

St Clement Colegate

The earliest surviving parts of the present church date from the mid-14th century. The quoins of the nave from this period are embedded in the west wall and the east window of the chancel is apparently in situ. The early roof line of the nave on the east wall of the west tower suggests it is part of the same development. In 1448 money was left to reroof the chancel and glaze a window there. Work to widen and refenestrate the nave seems to be contemporary.






St Paul

The church of St Paul was built on open land on the north-eastern edge of the city in about 1120. It was part of a ‘hospital’ run by the cathedral priory to serve the poor and infirm and remained in their hands until after the Reformation. The round western tower was part of the original building and the foundations of the nave and chancel were probably part of the early ground plan. There was never a chancel arch, the width of the nave being continued through to the east end. A porch was later provided in front of the south door, and a north aisle was added in the fifteenth century. The window tracery of the nave and aisle also dates from this period. The church was restored in 1870, badly bombed in 1942 and later demolished.

Screen in St Paul's Church Norwich, J.S. Cotman. Courtesy of Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service

Screen in St Paul’s Church Norwich, J.S. Cotman. Courtesy of Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service

St Michael at Plea

The church as it stands is almost all of the 15th century with some restorations subsequently. The tower and chancel probably predate the nave (cf. Peter Hungate, Michael Coslany) and are on very different alignments. The nave, complete with its vandalised angel roof, seems to date from the mid-15th century. There are indications that both north and south transept arms were envisaged at the same time as the plinths are continuous. As built, the northern transept is deeper, perhaps because it housed the archdeacon’s court. The shallow southern arm compensates by adjoining a south chancel chapel which extends it to the east.