History of St. Mary’s Church

st marys photo

The village of Crimplesham has been witness to the Christian faith since before AD 1066 and down through the centuries. At the current site of St. Mary’s, it is probable that a church stood as far back as pre-Norman times, though no exact historical details are known about this. Below is what is known of the religious history of the parish.

According to Blomefield’s History of Norfolk (vol. VII, 1807) a freewoman known as Ailed (a saxon) was deprived of the lordship by William the Conquerer, which included Crimplesham with Toimere. The lordship was instead granted to Rainald, a Norman baron who attended William in his invasion of England in 1066, by way of a reward for his services.

After Rainald, the lordship was handed on to the Earls of Clare in Suffolk. In 1090 the first Earl, Gilbert de Clare, directed that the church at Clare should become part of a network of the great Benedictine Abbey of Bec in Normandy; and with Clare went many other churches within the Earl’s estate, including the one at Crimplesham. Thus began a long association of Crimplesham with the Benedictines, who had the pastoral care of the parish until the Reformation.

The following extract from Blomefield’s History of Norfolk describes the appearance of the ancient church, prior to it’s restoration in 1897.

In this church was the guild of St. Mary.  It is a single pile, with a chancel covered with reed, and built of coarse stone found in the neighbourhood.  It has a square tower, embattled, with five large bells.  On the pavement of the church lie some old marble gravestones deprived of their brasses, in remembrance probably of the DEREHAMS, BALDWIN DEREHAM, GENT. of Crimplesham, by his will in Feb. 1527, requires to be buried in the church near the south door; and in the reign of Henry VI, there was a chantry founded here for ELIZABETH, wife of THOMAS DEREHAM Esq., ROBERT DE VERE of ADDINGTON in NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, Esq., THOMAS DEREHAM buried here in Ao 13th Edward IV.

st mary single

Watercolour of St. Mary’s by Janet Watkins

To learn more about the history of the church, please click on the links below to view information leaflets that have previously been compiled on the subject of St. Mary’s.

“A Brief History” booklet
Church Tours 2013 leaftlet – compiled by ‘Lyn Stilgoe