St Mary's Church
The tower of the 15th century St Mary's church is an important landmark to mariners warning of the position of the treacherous nearby sandbanks. In 1940 a German bomber released a trapped bomb from its bays during its return to Germany and the shrapnel from the bomb can still be seen embedded in the aisle pillars of the church. The church's octagonal font, also of the 15th century, is carved with figures of lions and satyrs.
Towards the end of 2010, toilet and kitchen facilities were installed at the base of the tower. A ringing gallery and a screen enhance the west end of the church. So the ring of bells at Happisburgh is no longer a ground-floor ring, but there is approximately a 13 foot climb up to the gallery on the existing tower stairs.
St. Mary's received a legacy from a staunch member of our church, which stipulated that it was for the toilet/kitchen project, which we had been discussing for some time. So the fundraising began in earnest, with the Millennium Exhibition and all the summer concerts and other musical evenings. We also received many small donations and one or two larger ones, all very welcome, and our Thomas Marshall Memorial - Tower Admissions - supported this project also.
Finally we felt confident enough to apply for permission to make these changes in the bottom of the tower of our medieval church, and although these things take a long time, we succeeded and the work could begin. In August 2010 the bells fell silent, as we had to remove and store the ropes and make way for the builders. At all times the church was open for services and visitors alike, although the fallout of dust was a constant challenge! Just before Christmas the builders finished, and the facilities were available for the Christmas Eve Holy Communion service. The lights were on inside, and a curious congregation inspected the facilities before worship began!
The bellropes have been put back on the bells, and we are ringing for Sunday services again. The new gallery is high, light and airy with splendid views of the interior of the church, including the pattern of the floor tiles, not really appreciated from groundfloor level.
Completion of this project enables us to offer an even warmer welcome, and serving refreshments after services is very easy and efficient. Volunteers working inside church, flower ladies and cleaning ladies (and men) can feel relaxed and we expect ideas and opportunites for fuller use of the church to follow.