St. Nicholas' Church

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St Nicholas

On 16th July 1986 the probable site of the mediaeval Nowers manor and its long lost church were discovered, having shown up as crop marks that were subsequently recorded by aerial photographs.

The plan of the church is typical of churches of the Late Saxon or Norman period dating from the 11th or 12th Centuries. It consists of a nave 6m wide and a slightly narrower apse to the east. Just to the south of that is a fragment of another building and to the south of that is a large rectangular building, 18m long, possibly a manor house, manorial hall or similar domestic structure.
The church is likely to actually be the chapel of St Nicholas mentioned in 1310 and 1430.
At one time it was possibly the parish church but by the 15th century St Agnes' (Mary's) had taken over that role, demoting St. Nicholas' to possibly just a private chapel for the manor.

The name St. Nicholas

Armstrong (1781) and Blomefield (1805 and on):

In discussing the presentation to Itteringham church they both give:

“1310 Wm de Briston, and to the chapel of St Nicholas, annexed. ditto” [ie Wm de Briston].

“..John Moretoft, whose feoffees presented to the portion of Nowers manor, with St Nicholas chapel in 1430”.

This entry is under “Nowers portion” i.e. the owner of Nowers had the right to present to Itteringham rectory but only a third turn (i.e. three owners shared the advowson). St Nicholas is not mentioned in the other entries under Nowers.

This is the only early reference in print to the name St Nicholas and is repeated by all after him. Neil Batcock in Ruined Churches 1991 published after the aerial photo was taken says this site is most likely to be St Nicholas Chapel.

Is it separate?

Batcock uses the only other known quoted reference, which is to an unnamed “second” church; this is very difficult to interpret. The source is an Inventory of Church Goods in the time of Edward III (1368). This was published by Norfolk Record Society in 1947-8. The introduction describes the route taken, from Oulton “next north to Itteringham (2¼ miles), contd north to Mannington (½m)..[here the ornaments at the “other” church of Itteringham are given], north to Little Barningham (¾m). The editor assumes it was a few yards north east of other one.

The goods of this “alterius” church (Batcock translates as “second” which is not incorrect but it does mean other, normally of two.) are quite minor and are described as being in the custody of Ricard Chapp (the chaplain) being the “deputy” (standing in for) the archdeacon until Feast of St Michael. This is probably the same Richard (Richard de Gateley) who is shown as the chaplain (capellanus) of Itteringham church. There is reference to one of the ornaments of the main church being the gift of the recent rector William Catis. He is noted elsewhere as being rector of Itteringham (for Nowers portion) from 1349-58 and of Wickmere 1360-71. If Richard is both the Itteringham chaplain in 1368 and custodian of the other chapel’s possessions this does not argue strongly for or against the buildings being separate. It is interesting to note that the “ other” church owes no dues to the archdeacon (which all the main churches do) so must be a small chapel in terms of influence.

The site plan as given by Batcock is 36' x 20' nave with apsidal chacel facing east 20' x 18', walls about 2' thick. His dating of 1040-1100 (i.e. not later Norman complexity of building and not earlier, as churches were timber) ties in with a strikingly similar example in Surrey and to other places with known late Saxon churches.

No stones remain, presumably grubbed out for reuse and it is not known when it fell into disrepair. The adjoining hall, now also completely vanished, may have lasted longer, as shards of green-glaze pottery possibly from the 15th century were found nearby.

Maggie Vaughan-Lewis

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 07836 675369 or

Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004
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