Kirby Bedon St Mary
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St Mary’s church ruins are located in Kirby Bedon, a Norfolk village in the south-east of Norwich, just 50 metres or so opposite the current parish church of St Andrew.
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Visiting Kirby Bedon St Mary
The tower of St Mary’s in Kirby Bedon is a tower standing almost its full height – at least in part. Parts of the belfry stage stick up to the sky, but other parts are just gaping holes. This stage, on a brick string course and with brick-framed belfry openings, was added around 1400 to an earlier tower. Below this is the original belfry, now with its wide pointed openings filled in with small flints and inserted brick lined and framed, triangular headed single-lights. About five feet below these, there is a ring of stone-bridged holes, which were probably for use as a dove-cote after the building ceased to be used as a church. From the nave it can be seen that there were two circular openings in the in the gable of the west nave wall before the tower was added, which blocked them. The naves west quoins are formed of large flints. This indicates that the nave was built in the 12th century, and there is evidence that it was later extended eastwards for the same-width chancel, in perhaps the 13th century, at the same time as the tower was added.
The west side of the small tower arch has a plain chamfer and the stones forming the arch have been carefully cut to curve along the inner face of the tower. On the nave side of this arch, the facings for it have been robbed. There is also a stone-framed ground floor lancet window, facing west.
The north wall of the nave survives nearly to its full height, without any dressed stone left for windows or doorways, but the south wall has disappeared, and the east wall has a large gaping hole that once supported an east window.
This Church was described in 1748 as being ruinous “for time immemorial”. No doubt the village found it difficult to maintain two churches. There is another church just across the road, St Andrew’s, where the tower-less nave was also built in the 12th century, of the same dimensions and the same flint work as St Mary’s. St Andrew’s still has a round-headed south doorway from the 12th century, though its tower is a square one, a 19th century replacement of one built in the 13th century. It is not known why two identical churches should have been built so close to each other in the 12th century?