Building » Burnham Market – St Henry Walpole

Burnham Market – St Henry Walpole

The Green, Burnham Market, Norfolk, PE31 8HD

A 1958 (and later) conversion of a utilitarian former factory and showroom to create a modest church and presbytery.

It is likely that a pair of cottages for domestic staff occupied this site until 1911, when it is thought the present double gabled building was erected. It became a spectacle factory in World War II and then a car and boat showroom. Catholics in Burnham had to travel to Kings Lynn for Mass or, as new churches were built, Fakenham, Wells or Walsingham. The diocesan Travelling Mission also occasionally came to Burnham Market.

In 1958 Canon Gerard Hulme, priest at the shrine and parish priest in Walsingham, bought the showroom to establish a Mass centre. He chose to dedicate it to St Henry of Bavaria, partly because that saint had a reputation for caring for new churches, but mainly ‘to look after the Mass centre until Henry Walpole is canonised and fit to take his place among his own Norfolk people’. The first Mass was celebrated by Mgr Anthony Reynolds on 24 May 1958 and thereafter priests came from Walsingham, in whose parish Burnham lay. By May 1961, the office area in the right hand building had been converted to living accommodation and Fr Kane moved in. After 1965, the plate glass front window was replaced by the present church entry and the large window over the altar bricked up. Further improvements were made in readiness for the canonisation of Henry Walpole on 5 October 1970, and Bishop Alan Clark consecrated and re-dedicated the church on 20 December 1970. The parish was created in May 1976 and the Revd Hugh Richmond SDS took up residence.

The first altar was a mahogany side table, replaced by an ‘ornate altar from Manchester’ given by Bishop Parker, but the present altar (with communion rails and other sanctuary fittings) was made locally in memory of George Phillips, a parishioner who died soon after the consecration. The church bell came from a ship and brass fittings, including candlesticks, were donated by USAF personnel from RAF Sculthorpe.


The church is orientated northwest to southeast (the altar at the southeast) but for the purposes of this account, liturgical points will be used, i.e. the altar at the east.

A double-gabled, single-storey, brick building with pantiled roofs and an open timber bellcote above the entrance. The sacristy is in a flat-roofed area between the two gables at the rear and there is a conservatory across the two rear gables leading to a small garden.

The church is lit by three high-level horizontal windows on the north, six vertical slit windows between brick piers at the west and a pair of square casements to the south of the sanctuary. The lower parts of the simple roof tie-beam trusses are visible, but the ceiling runs across a (presumed) mid-height collar beam. Apart from the glazed main double door at the west, there is a door at the southwest corner leading into the adjacent presbytery (and its street door) and another door at the southeast corner leading to the sacristy and former reconciliation room. The parquet floor runs throughout the church and the altar stands on one step.

The altar, altar rail and other sanctuary fittings are post-1970, the Stations of the Cross (given by Fr McCormick, the last Travelling Missionary) are small prints mounted on the slope of the ceiling and the various statues are locally made. There is a copy of the seventeenth century print portrait of St Henry Walpole and some relics of him and other saints in wall frames. The mosaic cross is by Mrs Viola Schwedel and the bronze memorial to Stephen Balfour was presented by his sister Mrs Shepperd.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1911

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed