Norfolk Church Aisles

The County of Norfolk is blessed with the largest number of medieval church buildings in the country, the product of many small manors in early medieval times, where many lords established their own church.

In most cases these were substantially developed and embellished as buildings resulting from the enormous wealth generated by the wool and cloth industries that flourished in East Anglia during the later middle ages. In addition, there were thousands of substantial pious donations from parishioners.

Birkin Haward published his seminal survey of medieval church arcades in Suffolk in 1993. He noted that “the extent to which the forms discovered here may be typical of wider national practice will only be reliably known when similar systematic studies have been carried out in other counties”. The NHBG committee decided to undertake a systematic study of the church aisles in Norfolk, and to limit it to moulded piers only. Norfolk has over 700 churches, of which 299 have aisles – of which 135 have moulded piers, compared with 102 in Suffolk.

The aims were to analyse the results with a view to establishing whether the work of particular masons could be deduced from the typology. Also to establish whether the accepted general sequence of styles could be confirmed and whether specific dates could be applied. Finally to investigate the stone type and sizes in a subset of churches compared with their distance from coast/river for transport.

Current Status

The fieldwork has been completed, the drawings are complete, analysis of the styles and of the origins of the stonework and the overall write up have been delayed. Contact if you are interested in getting involved.

Drawings and photos: Ian Hinton