The medieval church – said to be the second most architecturally important in Norfolk after Norwich cathedral – has seen its roof restored to its original glory, along with a host of other repairs and restoration works.
The works included the removal of asbestos roof sheeting and replacement with handmade slates, repairs and restoration of oak timber boarding and hammer-beam roof structure. Conservation repairs to stained-glass windows, flint work and stone copings, as well as the installation of new cast-iron rainwater goods.
The Westmorland slates were brought from the Lake District, and had to be ordered six months in advance to enable the quarry to prepare them.
The restoration of the hammer beam roof, included the painstaking recreation of five of the supports which hold the hammer beam ends. Using similar tools to their original creator, craftsmen from Blackburns took the damaged timbers as templates, copying their pattern of circles and fleur-de-lis.
Other work on the contract, saw stone coping and flint repairs to the north side of the tower which had collapsed. Restoration of stain glassed windows and the installation of new cast-iron rainwater goods.
Parts of the church go back to the 9th century, dated by a circular Saxon window in the north nave which could be as old as 850AD.
The church’s unusual design features a tower at its centre, built in 1100 it is said to be the largest Norman tower in East Anglia. Externally it is some eight metres square. Called a crossing tower, it gives the church a crucifix shape when viewed from above
So important is the building that English Heritage inspectors twice visited the site to look at the flintwork, and declared themselves pleased with Blackburns’ craftsmanship.
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