Heckingham St Gregory
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St Gregory’s is a redundant church located in Heckingham, a Norfolk village close to Loddon. It is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
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Visiting Heckingham St Gregory
St Gregory’s in Heckingham is in many respects quite similar to its “sister church” St Margaret’s in Hales about two miles to the south of it: the south doorways look very much alike, both still have an apsidal chancel, both are in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, and both are thatched throughout. However, St Gregory’s does not have – at least in my opionion – the beautiful atmosphere of St Margaret’s.
The tower is only round for about 14 feet; this part could be 12th century work. The rest was rebuilt in octagonal form in the 13th century, with brick quoins. Surviving wills show money was left between 1453 and 1501 for repairing this octagonal part, in two stages each of about twelve feet. Probably even the lowest circular part was partially rebuilt as there are pieces of 12th century stone billet carvings re-used in it for putlog holes! St Gregory’s has an apsidal east end with pilasters (shallow buttresses) from the 12th century. The whole church is neatly thatched, as is the shed by the gate, a stable for the Rector’s horse?
The 16th century south porch protects a sumptuous 12th century doorway with a heavily carved round head, having an outer arch of wheels, then a variety of patterns of chevrons, crosses, bobbins and double cones. The carved capitals are supported by shafts and nook shafts, with a leaf decoration on the edges between the shafts. There are the remains of a north doorway of similar age, but only one moulding of the arch, with a chevron pattern, and one shaft are left. This doorway was re-set in the north wall when the aisle was added in the 13th century.
The tall narrow tower arch is 12th century, as is the plain square font standing on five columns, four of which have prominent volute capitals. Near the door, standing on its head, is a stone coffin. There are also some coffin slabs and possibly a mensa (altar stone with crosses) set in the floor along the north aisle. The aisle is separated from the nave by three pointed arches, which have been cut straight through the early wall.
The chancel, with its apsidal east end, has a barrel vault. There is 20th century glass in the windows showing St Gregory and St Elisabeth of Hungary flanking the Annunciation. Some older glass remains in the larger window in the south nave. It has 15th century fragments, including five shields.