Horning Road, West Hoveton, Norfolk, NR12 8QJ
A modest church of 1959, twice extended. The result is a modern, well-lit church with good 1880s sanctuary furniture from the demolished chapel of Wroxham Hall.
The building is oriented northeast to southwest, but liturgical points will be used in this report, i.e. the altar at the east.
Northwest Norfolk was part of the huge mission territory of St John the Baptist in Norwich, and priests from there regularly said Mass at the homes of Catholic families such as the Shepheards at Aylsham and the Loads in North Walsham (qqv). The Catholic Trafford family had purchased Wroxham Hall in 1811 and their mausoleum was built in the churchyard of St Mary’s parish church, Wroxham by Anthony Salvin in 1827-8. In 1884, an iron-framed chapel built by the Norwich engineers Boulton & Paul and dedicated to St Michael and St Helena was built at the Hall. Its location is not precisely known as the Hall was demolished in 1954 (although the family still farm the estate). Old photographs show a thatched, chapel-like building beyond the late eighteenth century part of the Hall, but an account of a 1908 funeral suggests the chapel was attached, much like a conservatory.
After demolition the chapel furnishings were put into store. Villagers then used the new Hoveton village hall, but in 1957-8 a Mobile Mission encouraged the purchase of a three-acre goat field and sheds, owned by Miss Bulmer, who lived opposite on the Horning Road. In 1959, Lushers built the present nave to the designs of Wearing & Hastings at a cost of £6,000, and it was furnished with the fittings from Wroxham Hall. Opened and blessed by Bishop Leo Parker of Northampton on 3 May 1959, St Helen’s continued to be served from Norwich, then North Walsham and St George’s Sprowston (Norwich) before becoming a separate parish in 1976 on the creation of the Diocese of East Anglia.
In 1984, new steps and an iron entrance gate were built to commemorate the church’s silver jubilee. Two years later the present narthex was added by Wroxham Builders.
In 2004, the church once again became part of the parish at North Walsham. In 2008-9 the flat-roofed sacristy, confessional and WC at the southeast corner was replaced by a large ‘transept’ chapel that can be curtained from the church for social events. A new sacristy, small meeting room, kitchen and WCs were added along the east wall. The work was carried out by Lushers, the original builders. Bishop Michael Evans dedicated it on 2 May 2009, the golden jubilee of the church.
The whole building is faced with red brick, with red pantiled roofs to the church and transept and a copper roof to the gabled narthex extended centrally to form a porch roof. The west wall above has a central white rendered and painted panel with a large attached wooden cross rising to the gable apex above. All the windows are of brown stained timber or metal with brick cills. The west bay of the 1959 church has a flint apron below horizontal windows slightly set back from the main walls. The east bay of the north side is similarly recessed with a timber framed window, which until 2000 reached to the ground. A door at the northeast corner leads to the 2009 sacristy.
The narthex has a shallow-pitched gabled copper roof with walls of alternate panels of brick and glass. The broad south transept gable has corbelled kneeler stones and the concrete coping leads up to a concrete gable cross. The central doorway is beneath a pantiled gabled roof and there is a small glazed brick roundel above.
Wearing & Hastings built a number of these steel portal framed churches in the diocese c.1960. Here, the four visible frames are covered with polished timber but their top few feet unsatisfactorily disappear under a longitudinal apex coving. The walls up to window cill level are of brick, but plastered above and the ceiling is also plastered between the frames. The 1959 west bay is distinguished from the seating area by full-height brick buttresses, horizontal windows and brickwork up to a wood cornice at roof springing level, plaster above. The west wall double doors and flanking windows are of 1959.
The blank east wall is also plastered (currently painted pale yellow) and the southeast area is bare brick with two openings now into the transept (originally doors into the confessional and sacristy). The transept itself has white plastered walls and a pitched ceiling.
The neat pipe organ was installed in 1979 at the south end of the east wall by Nigel Church of Stamfordham, Northumbria, from a Swiss design. The altar (originally placed against the east wall), candlesticks, altar rails, gradine, tabernacle, Stations of the Cross and two statue pedestals are good quality pieces from Wroxham Hall, presumably of c.1884. There was also a pulpit and the ‘Old Spanish’ crucifix on the east wall may also come from Wroxham. The reredos, small wooden font, candlestick, candelabra and upholstered chairs are recent additions.
Architect: Wearing & Hastings
Original Date: 1959
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed