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Visiting Christchurch, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England: Victorian monumentality by Robert Kerr

Updated on August 6, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Christchurch, Great Yarmouth
Christchurch, Great Yarmouth | Source
George Whitfield, by John Russell
George Whitfield, by John Russell | Source
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk | Source

You can't miss it

This imposing building, Christchurch, Great Yarmouth, with its conspicous, twin towers and wide frontage, could pass as a cathedral in some parts of the world. An Anglican cathedral, maybe? the very name 'Christchurch' has an Anglican 'ring' to it: one only has to recall Christ Church, Oxford, or Christchurch, New Zealand, to have the impression reinforced that it must surely be both Anglican and modelled on a cathedral.

In fact, the reality is quite different.

In the first place, for nearly a quarter of a century this structure houses the united services of United Reformed adherents and Methodists. Originally a Congregational (1) church in 1854, for over 150 years the building has been an imposing landmark in the Norfolk town of Great Yarmouth, England.

Cathedral? Well, therein lies a story. The development of Nonconformity in England has an interesting history. In its early days, there was a strong emphasis on the spiritual at the expense of the outward: impressive, monolithic buildings were usually deemed by early Nonconformists — sometimes persecuted or at least socially despised — to be unnecessary. Then, as both Congregationalist, Methodists and other Nonconformist groups become more established, they tended to operate on the strict principle of the equality of each local congregation: in other words, a Nonconformist 'cathedral' was a contradiction in terms.

Methodism in Great Yarmouth was already well established in the 18th century. The Methodist church in Fish Street (now demolished) was known to have been the venue for the preaching of 18th century Methodist George Whitfield, who, with John Wesley — each with their own emphases to their ministry — was instrumental in the large scale establishment of many Methodist groups in the British Isles and North America.

The building's architect was Robert Kerr, of Norwich, Norfolk. Its style is basically Neo-Classical, with a hint of neo-Romanesque in the recurring, rounded arching at its main frontage. Some decades ago, the interior of the building underwent a program of rebuilding, with a view to maximizing the usage of space.

Christchurch is located at the intersection of Yarmouth Way and Deneside, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.

August 6, 2013


(1) Many Congregationalists eventually joined the United Reformed Church, together with many Presbyterians in England.

Also worth seeing

In Great Yarmouth itself, other noted buildings include: St Nicholas's Church; the Anna Sewell House; the North-West Tower; the Britannia Monument, and others.

Burgh Castle (distance: approx. 6.8 kilometres) is an ancient structure with elements dating from Roman times.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Great Yarmouth is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. The town is 265 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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