Building » Walsingham – Church of the Annunciation

Walsingham – Church of the Annunciation

Friday Market, Little Walsingham, Norfolk, NR22 6DB

A modern design by Anthony Rossi, opened in 2006 and designed to be carbon neutral. The round tower and attractive brick and flint detailing recall local ecclesiastical and vernacular precedents, while the internal layout reflects modern liturgical practice. Most of the furnishings were designed by the architect, but some items were brought from the earlier (1950) church on the site. Set back behind a landscaped forecourt, the church makes an unobtrusive but positive contribution to the Walsingham Conservation Area. 

At the end of the nineteenth century, Walsingham was in the mission territory of King’s Lynn. From 1905 it was served from Fakenham until 1934, when a priest-custodian was appointed to the national shrine established at the Slipper Chapel at Houghton St Giles (qv). In 1937 a community of Capuchin friars settled at Walsingham and acquired two cottages in Friday Market, which were demolished to provide the site for a new church. The friars left in 1948 with the church still unbuilt, but in 1950 a temporary church was built by the Diocese of Northampton. The brick façade and some of the furnishings were apparently designed by Enid Chadwick, a religious artist of Walsingham, more of whose work is to be found in the Anglican shrine. The plain design, with a central porch and flanking curved walls, perhaps owed something to that of the church of Our Lady at Wells-next-the-Sea (qv).  

In 1968 priests of the Society of Mary (Marists) took over the care of the national shrine and also the parish of Walsingham. In 1996 the first plans were drawn up by the architect Anthony Rossi for a new church. Work started in 2005 and the church was consecrated by Bishop Michael Evans in 2006. The site is deep and narrow, with a considerable rise in ground level from front to back; the new building was set into the slope with a parish room in the roof space. The heating and electrical installations are designed to use renewable sources with the intention of creating a carbon neutral building.

In 2018 a sculpture of the Annunciation attached to the tower in 2017 was blessed by Bishop Alan Hopes.


The church is not orientated; the sanctuary faces north. The plan comprises a round tower with a nave extending to the west and a sanctuary on the north side of the nave.  The walls are a mixture of flint, red brick and timber boarding and the roofs are covered with red pantiles. Facing towards Friday Market is a low flint-faced round tower, evoking the form of many medieval Norfolk churches. This has a conical roof incorporating a gable pierced with an oculus, with inset brick in a radiating pattern. The gable houses a bell cast by Taylor, Eayre & Smith of Loughborough. Placed centrally on the tower is a bronze sculpture of the Annunciation, installed in 2017. Around the bottom of the tower is an open loggia/porch, with the date MMVI (2006) picked out in brick. Behind the tower, the nave is set into the sloping ground and is largely windowless except for the timber-faced end gable, which has three windows with triangular heads. The south-facing slope of the wide pitched roof has solar panels. The walls of the north side are a mixture of red brick and flint; in the centre of this side is a full-height projection containing the sanctuary, which has canted side walls with a central northern window, a four-light window in the east side and a deep sloping roof.

Inside, the church has a light-coloured floor covering, plain plastered walls and a panelled ceiling with the steel trusses of the roof exposed. The timber bench seating is arranged in a fan shape facing the raised semi-circular platform of the sanctuary.  The sanctuary furnishings and font were designed by the architect Anthony Rossi and made by the Norwich stonemason Bruce Riley, using three types of Ancaster stone, which is also used for steps and areas of paving within the church. The north window behind the altar is by Paul San Casciani; set against it is a bronze statue of the dead Christ by Mark Coreth. The west and east windows have simple patterns of leads of varying widths with accents of colour and were designed by the architect. Two statues and the Stations of the Cross were brought from the earlier church.

Heritage Details

Architect: Anthony Rossi

Original Date: 2006

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed