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Hales, St. Margaret
OS Sheet 134 Grid Ref. TM 383 961
Hier gibt es eine genaue Karte / Click here for exact map

This is probably one of the most interesting round tower churches to discover. It is still my personal favourite, and without this pretty, little church, this website would probably not exist. It was in spring 1999, we were on our first boating holidays on the Broads, and we were looking for a walk from Loddon staithe. The OS map showed a “Historic House” about two miles south of Loddon (grid ref TM 368 960, Hales Hall; the walk is a really recommendable one for all those on a boat). We walked along several public footpaths to this house, and to avoid returning the same way, we chose to cross the A 146, and to visit a church shown on the map. Well, this turned out to be Hales St Margaret, and we were completely surprised to find a church being so different from all the others we had seen so far: a round tower, and a thatched roof, no porches, beautiful doorways, even the setting itself surprised us, too: the village of Hales is about a mile to the north of its church. The only disturbing point of this otherwise completely peaceful place is the noise of the busy main road only a couple of hundreds of yards away. We took several photos on this occasion, and returned to the boat, not knowing that we had just discovered one of the many round towered churches which are so typical of East Anglia. On our next boating holidays in 2003, we learned that there were a lot more, but still had no idea of how many there really were. This changed when the key keeper of Repps-with-Bastwick church gave me ‘Lyn Stilgoes round tower churches book as a present. Now we had a complete list, and a new hobby (which resulted in this website) was found… Since then, we try to return to St Margaret as often as possible, we have seen it in heavy rain, in fog, in sunshine on a crisp February morning (on which most of the photos in the gallery where taken), on a nice May afternoon, and it is always a beautiful sight and an inspiring place, whatever the weather.

The history of this church is also very interesting. ‘Lyn metions in her book that this church is probably the one which comes closest to the original appearance of an early round tower church. It “survived” all the architectural changes during the centuries mainly due to the fact that the parish was too poor to pay for substantial changes. Which is our luck today, as we find one of the finest exmples of a Norman church in the whole country. The development of the church from a towerless one to the shape it has today can be seen on the excellent sketches from the church guide. The artist, Sue White, gave me the kind permission to use them on this website. First, there was a towerless church, only nave and chancel were built. Apsidal chancels were the rule in 12th-century parish churches, yet very few survive because they became unpopular towards the end of the century (an example of a chancel having its apse removed can be seen at nearby Framingham Earl). This and in particular the fine doorways suggest a date around 1140 for the first nave and chancel. The tower was added at a later date. The technique of its construction is still primitve early mediaeval, which suggests that this happened not too long after the construction of the main body. The tower was heightened at a later date, when it got its final appearance as it is today. The nave doorways are considered to be among the finest in East Anglia (the “sister church” of Heckingham a few miles to the north has a very similar one, which suggests that it was the work of the same mason). There is one surviving original Norman window on the south side of the nave, which is blocked but retains its external face. The other nave windows are all later mediaeval insertions. As there was never enough money to rebuilt the east end of the chancel, there is only a simple “Y”-traceried window which replaced an earlier narrow Norman loop window. The other windows in the chancel are 13th-century lancets, slight enlargements of the original Norman loops. The interior is also well worth discovering. The famous St Christopher wall painting is the dominating one. It is situated immediately opposite the north doorway, so that passers-by can easily see it through the open door to gain protection from accident on their journeys. The chancel arch is a 14th-century replacement of the original one. Below it are the remains of the late mediaeval screen. The font at the west end of the nave is 15th century (the cover can be found at Booton). The 1815 organ is now at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral. The gallery which is accessible gives a good overview of the interior. Like the pulpit, it was built in the 18th century.

St Margaret was made redundant in 1973, and a year later it was vested in the Churches Conversation Trust (then the Redundant Churches Fund). There seems to be an annual service in July. We have always found it open and welcoming.

Click onto the picture above to start the photo gallery /
Klicken Sie auf das Photo, um die Galerie zu starten