ST. MARY'S CHURCH
In the Doomsday Book, compiled in 1086, it is stated that Watton had a church, but there don't appear to be any records as to where it was situated, or the date that it was built. However, it is most likely to have been on the same site as our present St. Mary's. It is generally accepted that this was built between 1100 and 1135 and is therefore the oldest building in the town. Of flint construction in the Norman and Gothic styles, it was originally dedicated to St. Giles, but was rededicated to St. Mary in the early 15th century. Its tower is round at the base, with an octagon belfry containing six bells. These were installed in 1899 owing to the introduction of Change Ringing in the 17th century which led to the wholesale recasting of all bells to make them into "peals" — a set of bells attuned to each other. Previously there were only three bells housed in a wooden spire and inscribed "John Brend made me in "1656-1658". The new bells were bought by public subscription at a cost of £ 300 and they carry the following inscription: —
1. (Treble) This bell was given by members of the Watton Church Council.
2. To the honour and glory of God. This peak of six bells was placed in St. Mary's Church, Watton, 1899 (MDCCCXCIX).
3. For mercies undeserved this peal is raised; And may Thy Name, 0 God, through Christ be praised.
4. Let Christ be known around. And loved whe'er we sound.
5. With loving voice I call to Church and Prayer, And bid the living for the grave prepare.
6. (Tenor) Praise God in His Sanctuary, Praise Him in the firmament of His Power.
Due to the rapid growth of the population in the early nineteenth century the north and south aisles of the church were taken down in 1840 to enable them to be extended in width, thus increasing the seating capacity from 260 to 480. This alteration made St. Mary's the only church in Norfolk that is wider than its length. To help defray the expenses of this alteration, the decorated font was sold to Ovington Church and replaced with the present one of Caen Stone with an oak cover. In 1852 the gallery in the church was removed, the floor lowered, an oak screen, pulpit and lectern erected, while in 1858 the church was closed for some weeks while further alterations were carried out. It was reopened on 16th June and the Norfolk Chronicle of 3rd July stated, "Very much has been done towards making our church more adapted for the worship of the Most High and it is most satisfac tory to see the endeavours of the Vicar so ably seconded, not only by his parishioners, but by the neighbouring clergy and gentry. It is a most cheering sight in these days that a more earnest spirit really exists amongst nearly all classes".
St. Mary's Church Sunday School outing about 1922, Rev. C. Nash on left.
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