Blink at the wrong moment as you drive along a by-road between Walsingham and South Creake, and you’ll miss Waterden. The tiny church stands a little way back from the road, down a slope. There was a settlement here in the 11th century, and the Domesday Book may have recorded a church. The little village seems to have begun an irreversible decay around 1400, though not as a direct consequence of the Black Death; now there are just earthworks remaining nearby. Its minute population found maintaining the church a hard task; around 1600 they  seem to have shortened the nave, abandoning the west tower, fitting a new roof and building a new north porch – though retaining the 11th c. north and south doorways. A south aisle was also abandoned. They inserted some new windows, including a brick-mullioned four-light E window. Inside, you find 19th century deal box pews and a contemporary pulpit. And a text, over the chancel arch.

Back in 1973, I moved to Norwich and one of the first things I did was to buy a new book, called ‘Norfolk Country Churches and the Future”, a manifesto for the survival of country churches years before its time. It was edited by a remarkable lady who was to be a friend for the next 30 years, Wilhelmine Harrod, and contained articles by a galaxy of her friends, including Osbert Lancaster, who drew Waterden for it. Let Fr. Colin Stephenson take up the story: “I remember so well coming upon a church in a field, it was Waterden. I pushed open the door and found myself in the middle of the Harvest Thanksgiving …  a formidable looking lady sat facing us behind a harmonium, surrounded by marrows and michaelmas daisies while over her head was a text which read ‘Lo, I am with you always’. I thought of this when I heard that Waterden might be closed as redundant.” 

This was written fifty years ago. Waterden church has been restored by its friends. It is still very much in use. Waterden church is not redundant.


Map Reference: TF 461554

Simon Cotton