Fishley St Mary
St Mary’s church of Fishley is located in the middle of nowhere just outside the Norfolk Broads village of Acle. There is no village “Fishley”, just Fishley Hall to the north of this small church.
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Visiting Fishley St Mary
Standing in isolation, overlooking marshes to the north-east, with a few pine trees round it, the setting of St Mary’s is memorable. There is no village with the name Fishley, only Fishley Hall is close by. The church has very limited opening hours, but on one of my visits to neighbouring St Edmund in Acle, one of the ladies doing the flowers happened to have a key of St Mary, and kindly offered to accompany me and open the church for me. If you are on a boat, there is a nice walk from Upton Staithe to the church across the neighbouring fields.
The west part of the nave and the lower part of the tower were built in flint at the same time in the 11th century, but the top section of brick with the stone belfry openings was probably rebuilt in the 16th or 17th century. Lower down the earlier openings in the tower have also been infilled with brick. These 14th century bricks might have been re-used from the earlier Hall, to the north-east of the Church. Many of the windows in the church were changed in the 19th century, as well as the tower roof from a cone shaped one to have a parapet, the south porch was added then, and the steeply-pitched slate roof, which also covers the aisle (called a cat-slide-roof!). The porch iron gates were placed here in 2009, with A M, for Ave Maria.
The south doorway is 11th century with sturdy billeting forming the round arch. The interior shows much work was done here in the 19th century, with most of the fittings and glass from that time. There is no arcade to the north aisle. Its upper roof rests on a beam the length of the nave, supported by a single iron post. Near the doorway is a poor box, for donations, probably fashioned from an old roof timber, with an iron-clad lid and lock. The modern circular font stands in the nearby corner. The 11th century tower arch is narrow and round-headed, with a similar shaped upper-doorway above. This provided access to the first floor of the tower, using a ladder set up in the nave before it had pews. In the south side of the chancel, standing up against the wall, is a large part of a stone coffin lid, dated to around 1300.