St Edmund's Church, Taverham
St Edmund's Church
Our building's history

St. Edmund, King and Martyr, to whom the church is dedicated, was killed by the Danes in 870 AD and this early dedication suggests that a church has stood in the village for about a thousand years. A church was standing in Taverham in 1086 when it was listed in the Domesday Survey.

The first church was probably rectangular and built of wood. This building was replaced in the 11th century by a simple church with a small rectangular nave, part of which survives, and a tiny chancel possibly with an apsidal east end.

The round tower at the west end was built about forty years later. Round towers were probably introduced into Norfolk from the Anglo Saxon homelands in Europe.

Thatching on St Edmund'sThe chancel and south aisle were added in the late 13th or early 14 century possibly due to the Lateran Council’s introduction of a more elaborate form of Mass and/or possibly to the growth of the local population.

During the 14th century, the parish erected a gild chapel on the north side of the chancel and traces of this building still exist.

The church tower was struck by lightning in 1459. The thatch and wooden roof would have burnt fiercely, setting fire to everything else and causing structural damage. Excavations in 1989 during the removal of the organ to its present position revealed evidence of burning below the present floors of the nave and south aisle.

In the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) gild chapels were abolished and the gild chapel became a vestry. It was later allowed to decay until in 1765 Thomas Sotherton, the lord of the manor, applied to the bishop for permission to replace it with a burial vault for his family.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries the archdeanery visitations report a catalogue of repairs and refurbishments needing to be done and it is a wonder that the church survived.

During some restoration work around 1862 it seems that, in removing the old pews, some of the plaster came off the pillars which were found to be crumbling. Further investigation revealed that the church was supported on just one of the pillars and the outer wall of the south aisle which was out of true. The church was propped up while new foundations were dug for the south aisle and the porch. The pillars were rebuilt on their original bases and the total cost of rebuilding was £288.

At the beginning of the 20th century it was reported that the tower was completely covered in ivy. This was cut each year by a lad swinging in a loop from the top and wielding a sickle. The ivy was removed after the first World War. In 1936 oil lamps were replaced with electricity. In 1953 the floors of the sanctuary and chancel were restored to the medieval level and a new altar was made from Taverham oak and in 1970 the nave roof was tiled.

These extracts have been taken from "A Guide to St Edmund’s Church, Taverham", by Judy Sims.