Watton St Mary

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What you need to know about this church

St Marys Church Watton

Where to find this church

Church Information

St Marys church is located in Watton, a Norfolk town.

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Watton St Mary church
Tower from the north
Watton St Mary church
Font

Visiting Watton St Mary

Now here we are at St Mary’s of Watton; one church has to get the title of my “least favourite Round Tower Church”, and in my opinion, St Mary’s deserves it. First, it is really difficult to get into this church. Second, it has the feel of a “town” church. And last but not least, it looks very modern inside. The quality especially of the exterior photos – which belong to the oldest ones on the website – is really poor, meaning we have to visit this church again.

The 12th century tower was added to an earlier nave, and had a new belfry added in the 14th century, with a 15th century stone parapet of a band of carved quatrefoils and shields. The nave is now totally engulfed by wide aisles added in 1840, which partially overlap the tower. There are clerestory windows above the central nave, but these are invisible from outside, due to each aisle having its own pitched gable roof. The 13th century chancel is modestly sized, in keeping with the old nave, and there is an 1887 vestry added on its north side. The chancel walls are rendered, but of interest is the priest’s doorway on the south side, with next to it a small, square, low side window. This is opened and closed by an oak door covered with iron bars and has never been glazed. It is thought such openings were used for the sexton to ring a bell to inform people outside of the progress of the Mass service. On the east gable of the nave is a cross with a crucifix within a ring of glory.

Nowadays a modern altar is stood below the chancel arch (this arrangement was obviously made after our visit in 2009) and is the one in general use, so the full width of the nave can be used for congregations, seated on movable chairs. The chancel still has an altar, but its choir stalls and priest’s desk have been moved, as has the pulpit. The nave arcades are slightly different, built in the 14th century when the previous narrower aisles were added. The south side pillars have a quatrefoil plan of four shafts, and the north has the same four shafts, but with a fillet between each of them. The font, standing in the north aisle, was new in 1840, made of Caen stone, and made in the 14th century style with a variety of tracery patterns round the bowl. One old treasure, near the 12th century round-headed tower arch, is the poor box mounted on a pillar. Above the box for the donations is the carved wooden figure of a man holding a bag of money, with “Remember the poore 1639” on his chest! After the Reformation, when the monasteries, who had looked after the sick and the poor, were swept away, the parishes had to raise their own funds to do this.

Conclusion: heavily modernised church with limited opening hours

Watton St Mary church
Nave with chancel
Watton St Mary church
Poor box