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St Felix's Church, Babingley

A Scheduled Monument in Sandringham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.8068 / 52°48'24"N

Longitude: 0.4709 / 0°28'15"E

OS Eastings: 566646.768568

OS Northings: 326109.532918

OS Grid: TF666261

Mapcode National: GBR P4K.5VG

Mapcode Global: WHKQ0.6QG3

Entry Name: St Felix's Church, Babingley

Scheduled Date: 28 March 1951

Last Amended: 12 March 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020767

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30611

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Sandringham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Wolferton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes standing and buried remains of St Felix's Church and
the churchyard around it. The church stands about 200m to the north of the
Babingley River, above what was at one time a navigable estuary, and there is
a tradition that it marks the spot where St Felix of Burgundy landed in AD 631
on his mission to convert the East Angles. Numerous finds of Middle and Late
Saxon, as well as later medieval pottery on the surface of the surrounding
fields provide evidence for a settlement here from at least the 8th century
onward. Remains of the medieval village of Babingley are visible some 200m
to the east and are the subject of a separate scheduling. Although tax returns
of 1331 show that the village was at that time relatively well populated, by
the beginning of the 17th century there were only eight communicants and the
church was described as `greatlie decaied'. In 1895 it was replaced by a
smaller church, built by the Prince of Wales 920m to the north east, but the
churchyard continued to be used for burial into the early years of the 20th

The standing remains of the church, which are Listed Grade I include a west
tower, the nave with a south aisle and adjoining porch, and the chancel. With
the exception of the porch, these are now roofless, but the tower and many
parts of the walls still stand to full height. Originally there was also an
aisle on the north side of the nave, and although this has been demolished and
is no longer visible, buried remains will survive. The earliest datable
architectural features belong to the first half of the 14th century, although
the building is thought to incorporate elements of an older structure and the
dedication to St Felix suggests the possibility of a pre-Conquest church on or
near the site. The medieval walls are built chiefly of grey Sandringham stone
and carstone with limestone dressings and retain evidence of several phases of
construction as well as later modifications and repairs. Differences in the
masonry and architectural details indicate that the 14th century rebuilding
was carried out in three main stages, starting with the nave and aisles and
ending with the construction of the west tower. The chancel probably went out
of use in the 16th or early 17th century when substantial alterations were
carried out, and the masonry of this later period includes the additional use
of brick and clunch.

The church is approximately 29m in length overall. The nave measures about 12m
in length by 5.5m internally, with arcades of two bays to either side
separating it from the aisles. The arches of the arcades are wide, with double
chamfered moulding, and spring from octagonal pillars with moulded capitals
and bases. Facing one another in the nave walls to the east of the arcades and
immediately west of the chancel arch are the remains of two tomb recesses
beneath arches surmounted by gable mouldings. Parts of the arch and gable
moulding above the northern recess have been restored in modern cement, but
traces of an original carved finial above the gable survive. In the recess on
the south side enough detail survives to show that the arch was of two orders,
with nook shafts (attached columns recessed in the wall) supporting the outer
order on both north and south faces and an inner order supported on octagonal
responds. The nave walls above the arcades and tomb recesses are constructed
of roughly coursed Sandringham stone.

The arches of the north arcade and the north tomb recess have been infilled
with masonry to create a side wall following the abandonment of the north
aisle, and the east wall of the nave is formed by a similar blocking of the
chancel arch. The chancel arch spans the full width of the nave and the
moulding of the arch and the polygonal responds supporting it are partly
visible. Inset in the blocking of the north aisle arcade are two windows and
a doorway, probably reused from the north wall of the demolished aisle. The
window in the eastern arch is of three lights with cusped heads, set in brick
jambs. The window in the western arch is of two lights and straight headed,
and to the east of it can be seen the jambs and arch of the doorway, now
blocked. In the east wall is a window of two lights, with reticulated tracery
of early to mid-14th century type, possibly taken from the south wall of the
chancel. This is set in 18th century brickwork which, in turn, is set in a
larger, rectangular opening lined with bricks of 16th or early 17th century

The south aisle of the nave is about 2.4m wide and 9m in length internally,
the lower part of the west wall of the aisle incorporates large blocks of
Sandringham stone and is thicker than the upper part, with an offset below a
small lancet window. The masonry of this and the adjoining part of the south
wall to the west of the south door is different from that of the wall east of
the door, which shows evidence of extensive rebuilding. The east wall of the
aisle, which partly blocks the southern tomb recess and forms a straight joint
with the nave wall above it, replaces an earlier wall, the scars of which can
be seen on the outer face of the church wall about 1m to the east of it, at
the junction of nave and chancel. Both the rebuilt sections of the south wall
and the east wall are faced externally with coursed carstone, with a diagonal
buttress at the south east corner and another between the south east corner of
the aisle and the adjoining porch. Both buttresses are edged with early post-
medieval brick. The south door, which is of 14th century date, appears to have
been reset, and east of it there are two window openings of which only the
jambs and sills remain, both set in masonry which includes bricks of early
post-medieval type. A single light window with cusped tracery at the head and
an external hoodmould is set into the east wall, within a larger, rectangular
recess. A lithograph of 1825 shows the eastern of the two windows with `Y'
tracery, pointed arch and hoodmould.

The chancel is rectangular, of the same width as the nave and only 1.5m
shorter in length. The north wall abuts the wall of the nave in a straight
joint, showing that the two were constructed at different times, and is
without openings other than a breach towards the eastern end. The east wall
and gable survive to full height, and in it are the remains of a large east
window with chamfered jambs, concave arch moulding and the stubs of tracery.
Towards the eastern end of the south wall are recesses for a piscina (basin
for the washing of vessels used in the Mass) and triple sedilia (seats for
officiating priests) beneath elaborately moulded arches which are surmounted
by a rectangular moulding terminating in stops on which traces of carving are
visible. Above them are the remains of a window opening, and there is a
second, tall window opening further to the east. A string course of chamfered
limestone runs around the external face of the east and south walls.

The west tower is of three stages, with diagonal buttress faced with limestone
ashlar at the south west and north west corners of the first two stages. The
ground floor stage and the immediately adjoining sections of the nave walls
are built chiefly of small pieces of roughly coursed carstone, forming a
straight joint with the very different masonry of the nave walls to the east.
The second stage is constructed of a mixture of carstone and Sandringham stone
and is divided from the topmost, belfry stage by a limestone string course.
The belfry state is crowned by battlements and the masonry is similar to that
of the first stage, with limestone quoins. The west wall of the ground floor
stage is pierced by a large window of two lights with intact tracery in a
style thought to date from the second quarter of the 14th century, and the
second stage is lit by small lancet openings in the north, south and west
walls. The bell openings in the four sides of the third stage are of two
lights, with `Y' tracery, now partly blocked with masonry. The tower arch
which opens onto the nave has wave moulding above plain, splayed reveals. It
appears to be entirely of 19th century date and was probably inserted into the
medieval masonry in 1849, when repairs are known to have been carried out.

The south porch is of early post-medieval date and is built of brick. The
entrance, surmounted by a small niche in the gable of the south wall and
flanked by diagonal buttresses, has chamfered jambs and a pointed arch and
hoodmould above moulded imposts. Both side walls are pierced by a small lancet
opening. Within the porch there are low brick benches to either side and the
walls curve overhead to form a pointed barrel vault.

The church is located towards the western side of a quadrangular
churchyard which measures approximately 70m east-west. North-south the
dimensions are approximately 72m at the western end, narrowing to about
48m at the eastern end. Within the churchyard there are several surviving
headstones with inscriptions dating from the 18th, 19th and early 20th

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

St Felix's Church is a good example of a parish church, rebuilt in the 14th
century to serve a village with a substantial population, and subsequently
reduced in size as that population declined in the later medieval and early
post-medieval period. The standing remains are well-preserved and substantial
evidence for the sequence of construction and subsequent alterations is
contained in the fabric of the walls and in the architectural details. Buried
remains of the demolished north aisle and possibly of an earlier, pre-Conquest
church, will survive beneath the ground surface and will contribute to a
fuller understanding of the history of the church and its use. Further
information concerning the Saxon and medieval population of the associated
settlement will also be preserved in the surrounding churchyard. The tradition
which associates the founding of the church with St Felix of Burgundy gives
the monument additional interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Council for the Care of Churches, , Babingley, St Felix, Norfolk, (1989)
White, F, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk, (1854)
Batcock, N, 'East Anglian Archaeol' in The Ruined and Disused Churches of Norfolk, , Vol. 51, (1991), 83-88
Title: Babingley, Tithe Map
Source Date: 1838
NRO Ref. DN/TA 31

Source: Historic England

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