St Mary, South Creake, Norfolk

What next when you have spent much of the fourteenth century building a large village church? The inhabitants of South Creake took the opportunity to improve upon what they already had. Naturally, it helped when in 1400 Pope Boniface IX granted an indulgence to those contributing to the Holy Cross altar in the N aisle; very soon a large new sacristy was built behind this altar by an architect who also designed St Nicholas’ chapel in King’s Lynn.

Over the next half-century or so, the walls received large new windows; a new roodscreen, pulpit and Seven Sacrament font were installed; over it all appeared a new hammer-beam roof with angels. At the time of this makeover (1429) a suspected Lollard said that he would prefer to give a shilling to burning the images in the church rather than painting them. The Reformation did for those images, but over the twentieth century successive incumbents did their best to put them back. These new windows were crying out for stained glass and in 1451 John Norton left 5 marks to glaze a north aisle window with an image of the Trinity, possibly the very Trinity surviving today in one of those windows.

More revealingly, Norton asked to be buried in the churchyard of the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of South Creake. Medieval churches celebrated a ‘Saint Mary’ dedication festival on a particular feast of Our Lady, and South Creake is one of those few parishes where we know which one.

Thomas Merton wrote: ‘If Mary is believed to be assumed into heaven, it is because we too are one day, by the grace of God, to dwell where she is. If human nature is glorified in her, it is because God desires it to be glorified in us too, and it is for this reason that His Son, taking flesh, came into the world.’

Map reference TF 855 362

Simon Cotton