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Visiting St John the Baptist parish church, Coltishall, Norfolk, England: 13th and 15th century, stone structure

Updated on February 15, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
St John the Baptist, Coltishall, Norfolk
St John the Baptist, Coltishall, Norfolk | Source
The church of St John the Baptist, Coltishall - west doorway.
The church of St John the Baptist, Coltishall - west doorway. | Source
Map location of Norwich, Norfolk
Map location of Norwich, Norfolk | Source

With some remarkable time-spans

At Coltishall, Norfolk, England, the Parish church of St John the Baptist dates from the 13th century in its main structure. Its tower is 15th century, and has a height of 20.4 metres.

Executed in stone, it is thus similar to many other East Anglian village churches, among which the use of flint abounded in their construction.

Pronounced, Gothic arching is conspicuous, including at the West Door and at many of its windows; two circular Saxon windows also survive. A sizable churchyard adjoins the building (1). A noticeable feature of some of the older headstones is the skull motif which has been etched onto them, as if to say: visitor: remember your mortality — a visual aid to the minister's proclamation of the Gospel?

The tower clock dates from 1877.

Some of the interior furnishings have survived from the 14th century. The interior of the building underwent a considerable program of refurbishment in the 19th century. It is a moot point (and maybe even more than a moot point) whether some of the 19th century restorations were accomplished in a manner which would today count as 'restorations' rather than considerable rebuilding: this comment may apply particularly to the window designs.

Interestingly, the building possesses a thatched roof, for which ongoing maintenance appeals are made. The proximity of the Norfolk Broads makes the availability of reeds less of a problem than would be the case in other parts of the country.

Local humourists refer to interior pillars which have leaned from their original angle as supposedly being in 'Slant 'n dicular' style (clearly a play on the word Perpendicular!).

Bellringing is a significant activity at the church (and I can testify to the penetrating quality of the bells as their sound is carried through Coltishall).

Another interesting feature is that the building is believed to incorporate building materials derived from Roman ruins, already about 1000 years old when the edifice was erected. Especially for North American visitors, truly the time-spans encapsulated by features of this building are remarkable.

The Church of St. John the Baptist is located at Wroxham Road, Coltishall, NR12 7DG, near Norwich, Norfolk. (You can't miss it!)

February 15, 2013


(1) On a personal note, some collateral forebears of my wife are buried in this churchyard.

Also worth seeing

In Coltishall itself, other noted buildings include Coltishall Hall, the former Rectory Road Chapel (now Bethesda Gospel Hall) and a number of houses with notable gables; Coltishall Staithe attracts many boaters.

Norwich (distance: 14 kilometres) among the numerous visitor attractions are: Norwich Cathedral; Bishop Bridge; Elm Hill; Norwich City Hall; Pull's Ferry; Norwich Castle; the Guildhall; and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Norwich is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. Norwich is 233 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to consult 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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