England is famous for pretty villages and centuries-old churches, and the county of Norfolk has both in abundance. In fact, Norfolk has more ruined churches than any other English county, including many that survived in an abandoned condition before any official efforts were made to preserve their remains. Not merely ruins, the county is also home to – arguably – some of the most overgrown churches on earth – crumbling structures entirely consumed by ivy, the greenery twisting around their half-hidden gravestones.
St Mary’s Church and St John the Baptist Chapel
St Mary’s Church at Fulmodesdon and St John the Baptist Chapel at Croxton were abandoned in 1880 when both parishes merged. Their ruins have since been reborn as a wildlife haven for owls and foxes. Deeply atmospheric, like many abandoned buildings sought by urban explorers, Norfolk’s overgrown churches are a common feature of the landscape.
Church of St Felix, Babingley
Meanwhile, the Church of St Felix is all that’s left of the “lost village” of Babingley. Allegedly the landfall of St Felix of Burgundy who is rumoured to have converted the local kingdom to Christianity around AD 615, the 14th century structure has cemented its place in the folklore of the region and is arguably one of Norfolk’s most important church ruins.
St Andrews, Bircham Tofts
If St Felix’s was one of the most influential, St Andrew’s Church at Bircham Tofts is certainly one of the most overgrown – and that’s saying something! Though the interior masonry remains architecturally impressive, you’d be forgiven for mistaking St Andrew’s for a dense copse of trees – albeit a slightly church-shaped one. Dotted around the abandonment, weathered gravestones mark the half-hidden churchyard.
Church of All Saints, Gillingham
Similarly overgrown, but not quite as intact, the Church of All Saints at Gillingham is a wonderfully spooky yet peaceful place, with abandoned tombs that seem to vanish into the forest. Most of the structure was demolished in the 18th century, leaving just the tower standing – and almost entirely hidden beneath decades of foliage.
Church of St Remigius, Testerton
In other corners of the county, deserted structures stand among farmers’ fields, almost unrecognisable from their useful days. St Remigius’ Church at Testerton – another lost village (above) – was abandoned by 1680 and presents a haunting and incongruous sight on the landscape.
St Mary’s, Appleton
Unlike the abandoned churches detailed already in this article, St Mary’s at Appleton (above) boasts a round tower, suggesting its origins are Saxon. The nave and chancel, however, were added during the 14th century (Norman period). Like several of the above ruins, the church is the only surviving trace of Appleton – another of Norfolk’s enigmatic lost villages.