The Project

St Michael at Plea porch

St Michael at Plea

The Medieval Parish Churches of Norwich – city, community and architecture …

… is a three-year project undertaken by researchers from the University of East Anglia. The research activity, its dissemination and communication have been made possible through the support of The Leverhulme Trust and the Norwich Research Park Translational Fund.

All 58 churches, whether existing, ruined and lost churches, play an important role in the Norwich Churches Project, offering insight into how the medieval city developed topographically, architecturally and socially. Norwich’s churches are nationally renowned, but no overarching study has been attempted since Francis Blomefield’s seminal work published in the 1740s. A detailed survey of Norwich Churches was started in the 1970s by Alan Carter, but the work was left unfinished. This project therefore picks up where others have left off, aiming to fill in some of the gaps and offer innovative architectural, art historical, and archaeological perspectives on each church and the collective whole.

The Project is intended to reveal the interdependent relationship between city, community, and architecture, by which people and places have shaped each other since the early Middle Ages. By focusing on Norwich’s medieval church buildings, their furnishings and imagery, we can better understand the city’s architectural and spiritual landscape.

More broadly, the Project seeks to provide a model for the exploration and analysis of the artistic, cultural, and social importance of medieval parish churches in England and beyond.

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St Gregory Pottergate

Our research mission combines four key objectives. We seek to:

  • Demonstrate the interplay between parish and city
  • Describe the relationship between parishes and their social and physical environments
  • Clarify the context for aesthetic choices for church buildings and their contents
  • Consider the influence of architecture on parish identity

Research questions underlying these objectives include:

  • What role did the churches play in the growth of the city?
  • Who invested in the construction of these medieval churches and why?
  • When were they investing? At what date, and also at what point in their life?
  • Why did they make certain aesthetic choices?
  • Who cared for and continues to care for these buildings?

A Steering Committee has been co-ordinated to provide advice and guidance to the Project Team and to challenge the questions, methodology and activities involved in the research. The Committee meets twice a year to receive a report of progress and discuss the next stage of work. Collectively, the Steering Committee provides a wealth of experience and expertise in the study of medieval Norwich, and art, architecture and archaeology more broadly. The Steering Committee members are: John Alban, Richard Darrah, Peter Doll, Richard Halsey, David King, Rob Liddiard, Tim Pestell, and Carole Rawcliffe.

In addition, we are required to submit an annual report on our progress and findings to our funders, the Leverhulme Trust. A summary of this report will be reproduced on this website.