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Churches and manors

05 June 2015


From the Revd Peter Paine

Sir, - I was much heartened by the excellent picture of the restored tower of St Mary's, Great Melton (News, 24 April), as my father, Humphrey Paine, and grandfather Nigel Paine would be, who together served in the parish of Great Melton from 1901 to 1969. But the caption is inaccurate where it says that the tower of St Mary's is in the graveyard of All Saints', Little Melton. This should read Great Melton.

It may interest readers to know that, from the 12th century, there were two churches in the same churchyard at Great Melton. This was as a consequence of there being two manors, that of the Peverells, who supported All Saints', and Hacon's for St Mary's. The tower of St Mary's was built in 1440 and had three bells. By the time of Blomfield's History of Norfolk (1745), All Saints' was a ruin, despite the attention given to it by the Anguish family in the 17th century, who then held Peverell's Manor.

In 1713/14, an Act was passed by which St Mary's and All Saints' were consolidated and made one rectory, advowson, and parish. All Saints' was pulled down, and the materials were used to repair St Mary's. In the 1880s, however, All Saints' was restored, rebuilt, and enlarged, its only original feature being the square tower and an Early English lancet window said to have come from St Mary's, which was now a ruin.

My father wrote at the end of some notes on this tale of two churches: "It is an extraordinary story of two medieval churches standing in the same churchyard, in a not very populous parish. There were enough people to fill one church, but not two; so perhaps it was inevitable that one should be allowed to disintegrate. St Mary's triumphed in the early 18th century when All Saints' was a ruin, but, just 160 years later, roles were reversed. All Saints' was rebuilt, and St Mary's a ruin. Why?"

One possible answer to that question is that there was nothing equivalent to English Heritage in those days. So we have much to be thankful for in today's Church.


Beachway House
27 Stratford Close
Southport PR8 2RT

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