It was 30 years after the Black Death, that the wool trade sufficiently recovered to allow for weavers and well-to-do merchants to start the building of the present, perpendicular St. Mary the Virgin church. The chancel window and walls being built from the razed remains of an earllier church, dedicated to St. Andrew.
In 1485 the building was enlarged, the chancel rebuilt, the nave heightened and added to the building was the clerestory with a hammerbeam roof.
An architect’s report from 1961 states “the present condition of this magnificent building is rather poor and restoration was started in 1965 and was only finished recently (2010).
The rood screen was erected in he early 16 century with 16 figures, including St. William of Norwich (a small boy working in the Cathedral Priory, he was murdered, his corpse found in Thorpe Wood in 1144), St. Wilgefortis, legend tells us that Portugal’s King’s daughter, having vowed virginity, grew a beard and the St. Andrew saltire.
By 1972 much of the paint and gilding of this marvelous screen was flaing away and conservation was started under the direction of Miss P. Plummer and funded by grants from the Council for the Care of Churches.
Parclose screens at the end of the north and south aisles are older by some hundred years. They retain exquisite fan vaulting, which can also be seen on the eastern face of the rood screen. Flowing lines and elaborate folded drapery of the Gothic style are discernible on the figures. There were probably two more screens on either side of the chancel, part of one fixture still remains in the arch where the organ is now situated.
St. Mary the Virgin is open on a daily basis to welcome everybody.
Donations are very welcome, a collection box is situated in the wall next to the door nearest to the tower.
More information can be found on the website of Norfolk Churches