Art Alive in Norfolk churches

Peter Sargent Twelve historic churches and contemporary artists maintaining traditions of the past. It's a mix that should prove irresistible to art-lovers, historians - and anyone who prizes Norfolk's heritage.

Peter Sargent

Twelve historic churches and contemporary artists maintaining traditions of the past. It's a mix that should prove irresistible to art-lovers, historians - and anyone who prizes Norfolk's heritage.

Art Alive - Artists Live in Norfolk's Historic Churches features churches hosting live arts and crafts events from Saturday, May 3 to Monday, May 5 and Saturday, May 10 and Sunday, May 11.

This partnership between the Diocese of Norwich and Norfolk Arts Partnership is a celebration of the county's rural arts and heritage.

“This is the first time the diocese has worked with Norfolk Arts Partnership, and the district councils of South Norfolk, Breckland and Broadland,” said Jennie Hawk, of the Norwich Diocese.

“The churches chosen all have a particularly fine artefact or item of fabric to illustrate the particular craft or art. For example, Thurton has some of the best stained glass in the country, Houghton on the Hill six layers of wall paintings, Reedham fine examples of knapped flint, East Harling for the use by medieval artists of tempera and the connection to Holbein's portrait of the lady with the squirrel.”

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The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “Norfolk is unique with 648 historic churches, more than anywhere else in the world.

“Without churches you would lose a key element of the Norfolk countryside. Art Alive is an excellent initiative, promoting the architectural and artistic beauty of our churches and inspiring people to explore the special nature of these spiritual treasures.”

Mari Martin, Head of Arts, Norfolk County Council, said: “Art Alive encourages people to discover some of Norfolk's medieval gems and at the same time take part in a celebration of the county's rural arts and heritage.”

Each church is near a footpath or cycle route to enable people to leave their cars. There will be refreshments available at each church.

Art Alive is supported by Awards for All, The John Jarrold Trust, The Diocese of Norwich, Norfolk Arts Partnership, Breckland District Council, Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council.

t For further information see or pick up a leaflet at Tourist Information Centres.


t SS Andrew & Peter, Blofield: This church has a huge tower dating from the early 15th century. It has connections with the Paston Family (famous for the Paston letters) and the poet, John Dryden.

t St John the Baptist, Reedham: A traditional medieval exterior hiding a modern interior with exquisite modern stained glass. It also has a Roman wall and the 17th century Berney Memorial. This church will host The Art of Flint Knapping - flint the basis of Norfolk churches, with a chance to have a go.

t St Mary with St Lawrence, South Walsham: South Walsham has two churches on one site, separated by the beautiful Sacristan's garden. Perfect for an exhibition of botanical art. Also present is Neil Storey, local historian and raconteur who will describe the uses of herbs in the middle ages, while the gardener will add tips on horticulture.

t St Mary, Burgh St Peter: A tower created in the shape of a Ziggurat, reminiscent of an Arabian Nights tale. It is attached to a small thatched medieval church. The craft associated will be reed thatching and the art of the Norfolk reedsman.

t St Ethelbert, Thurton: This 12th century church features an excellent example of Norman art. Inside are wall paintings and stained glass from medieval times to the present. This will inspire the stained glass artists demonstrating their craft.

t All Saints, Hethel: A striking flint tower greets visitors to this 12th century church. Renovated in the 19th century it houses a fine chamber organ which will be played over the two weekends. In the churchyard you can enjoy the wild flora and fauna.

t All Saints, Welborne: One of the wool churches, created during the heyday of the Norfolk textile industry. Inside is a reminder of a 19th century collector. Willow basket making and weaving, courtesy of the Worstead Weavers Guild, will be demonstrated here.

t SS Peter & Paul, East Harling: Huge church with an unusual 15th century tower. Inside are stained glass, tombs and a connection with Dutch artist Holbein. Maz Jackson will be demonstrating tempura painting with a focus on the use of tempura in art from the Middle Ages to the present.

t St Peter, Merton: On the Walsingham Estate, it has magnificent stained glass and church brasses inside. It has a link to the Babes in the Wood legend. There will be storytelling brass rubbing here with a family theme.

t St Mary's Houghton on the Hill: Beautifully restored church and a hidden treasure - it has six layers of wall paintings including paintings from the 11th century. There will be talks on painting conservation and wall painting.

t All Saints, Necton: It has a unique wooden cupola that looks out across the countryside. The theme of wood continues inside with extensive woodcarving. The roof is home to carved angels, and wood carvers will demonstrate their skills and let you have a go.

t St George's Colegate, Norwich: Built on the cusp of the 16th century, the interior is an example of beautifully crafted 18th century restoration. The sculptor David Holgate will demonstrate stone carving.