All Saints, Waterden
All Saints’ re-opened in August 2019 after undergoing an extensive restoration. The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn, rededicated the church at a Festal Evensong.
Set in a beautiful, tranquil churchyard amid fields, this tiny church is a gem hidden in the depths of the North Norfolk countryside yet only a few miles from the coast. The site of the vanished village of Waterden, which the church served and which is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, is close by to the north east. The church is active, always open to everyone, and loved by the community, visitors and pilgrims.
The church’s remoteness and peaceful charm has attracted some well-known people. The playwright Alan Bennett has written about it in his diaries and the cartoonist Osbert Lancaster drew a delightful line drawing of the church. Visitors remark on the spirituality and calm that pervade the building. They also wonder how this remote church has survived down the centuries as a place of Christian worship - the nearest buildings are the adjacent Old Rectory and Waterden Farm (roughly the site of the lost village) a quarter of a mile away.
Domesday does not mention a church at Waterden but it is possible that there has been one on or near this site for 1,000 years. All Saints’ is Grade II* listed and built mainly of flint, brick and rubble. Some features, such as two double splayed windows have been described as Anglo-Saxon, but that is uncertain. The north and south doorways are Norman and the bulk of the building is 13th century. Ruins at the west end once thought to be the remains of a tower are now considered to be what is left of a collapsed part of the nave. There was a south aisle and chapel, which have also disappeared.
The restoration of 2018-19 was made possible by generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Norfolk Churches Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Geoffrey Watling Charity and the Holkham Estate.
A new nave roof and ceiling were installed, parapets, buttresses and brickwork repaired, and improved drainage put in, among other work.
The restoration also revealed previously concealed features: traces of a wall painting above the font, arches which once formed part of the lost south aisle, and part of the foundation wall of the lost south aisle.
All Saints’ is an Anglican place of worship within the Diocese of Norwich and is a Chapel of Ease in the Parish of South Creake with Waterden and part of the Creakes Benefice. (A chapel of ease is an historical term applied to a church building, other than the parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of people who cannot reach the parish church conveniently.)
The Friends of All Saints’ Waterden was set up in 2017 to help the Benefice look after the church and churchyard.
The church is never locked. There is Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer on the fourth Sunday of the month from April - September at 5 pm. The Patronal Festival Eucharist is celebrated on 1st November each year at 12 noon and there is a Service of Readings and Carols for Christmas on Christmas Eve at 4 pm. This service is extremely popular so it is best to arrive early to get into the church. For a large pilgrim group, it might be possible with ample notice to arrange a Christian service.
Facebook/Instagram: All Saints Waterden
Waterden Lane, Waterden, Walsingham, Norfolk, NR22 6AT, United Kingdom
Grid reference TF88479 35804 Co-ordinates 52.886720, 0.799758
Enter All Saints Church Waterden into Google Maps for directions.
By car - Waterden Lane runs East to West between the B1355 Fakenham - Burnham Market road and the B1105 Fakenham - Wells road. Approached from either direction the entrance to the church is exactly 1 mile down the lane. The church is not easily visible from the lane - if you come to the Old Rectory you’re nearly there or have just overshot. There is a small car park but please be aware that, if you park on the verge, the lane is used by heavy tractors and must not be obstructed.
By public transport - Nearest rail service is King’s Lynn (24 miles) and nearest bus service (infrequent) is to South Creake (1.7 miles).
On foot - As by car.
One of the charms of Waterden is that it has no facilities - no running water, no electricity, nothing. It is approached from Waterden Lane by means of a 100 yard grass track so visitors need to wear suitable footwear. Unfortunately this means that disabled access is not good. There are no toilet facilities at the church or nearby. For refreshments there is a pub in North Creake (2.6 miles) and shops and pubs in Little Walsingham (3.9 miles), and there are plenty of B&B and holiday rental properties in the area.
Fr Clive Wylie SCP
Tel: 07970 875052