St.Mary’s Church, Holme Next The Sea
Extract From "Our Village in 1951" by Mr.J.E. Kett, Headmaster of the Village School.
The history of St. Mary's Church has been written on previous occasions, and in the library at King's Lynn there is a small volume, published in 1901, devoted almost entirely to this Church. Most of our information, however, has come from the Rev.G.H.Holley, and we believe that a description of an imaginary visit to the Church today based on this information, will prove most interesting to our readers. For those who wish for something more detailed, an excellent account of the history of the Church, in the form of newspaper cuttings, is to be found, framed, on the West wall of the Nave. Let us walk round the outside of the Church.
The tower, eighty feet high, is in good condition, and is one of the oldest parts of the building. The upper part of it is of a more recent style of architecture than the lower. On the East wall of the tower the position of the roof of the old South aisle can be clearly seen, and if we look at the Church from the North side it is obvious that the tower and the nave are oddly placed in relation to one another. This is the result of several alterations to the building, and a brief account of these is necessary at this point.
The first mention of a Church in Holme is in 1188, but there is no indication as to when it was built. It was over 200 years later, when Henry Nottingham, a judge, came to live in 1391, that the story of our present Church begins. Henry Nottingham lived in a house on the Thornham road, and for eight years was Town Clerk of King's Lynn. He and his wife, Agnes, were responsible for building of the nave, with North and South aisles, and the tower. The Chancel was not completely rebuilt, and much of the old walls and windows remains within the present walls. These remains, now concealed, are the oldest part of the Church. At the East end of the South aisle was the Lady Chapel in which Henry Nottingham and his wife are buried. The nave of Henry Nottingham's Church, as we may call it, was double the width of the present one, and it is understandable that the cost of maintaining such a large building was heavy.
In 1758, the Bishop gave permission for the lead on the South aisle to be sold, so that repairs to the rest of the Church might be carried out. Thirteen years later, we are told, the Church "being four times to big for the population," the North aisle was demolished, and the South aisle repaired. It is not surprising that in 1788 it was decided to take down the Church and build a smaller one. The rebuilding was performed by John Bond, of Ringstead, and the total cost was £331. The sale of materials from the Old Church realised £280, so only £51 had to be found for the completion of this work.
Since the rebuilding, a number of renovations have taken place, notably in the 1880's, when Mr. James Nelson had a roof put on the lobby, between the tower and the West door, re-roofed the Nave, erected new pews, and put in the present floor.
Before entering the Church, notice the two-light window over the entrance. Below this window is the square stone which served until recently as a sundial, and above the window you can see where the carved stone head of Henry Nottingham was once to be seen. This head, complete with judge's cap, was preserved by Mr. Thomas Nelson, and is now in the lobby, with the original holy water stoup. Inside the porch, above the inter doorway, is a canopied niche, once occupied by a figure of the Virgin Mary. There was a holy water stoup in the North-east pillar of the porch. Overhead on the central boss in the beautifully groined roof, from which the lamp now hangs, are Henry Nottingham's initials, and his armorial bearings are on the small shields surrounding it.
The only stained glass in the Church is in the West Window, which is a memorial to Matthew Nelson Esq. The East Window is modem, having been reglazed early this century mainly at the expense of Mr. Thomas Nelson. On your left as you enter the Nave is the Font of Bath Stone, on pillars of Irish and Devon marble, given by Mrs. Holley in memory of her husband, the Rev. John Holley, in 1885. The old font, in which some of the oldest inhabitants of Holme were christened, has recently been moved from the lobby to the South-east corner of the nave. The pulpit, also of Bath Stone, was given by Miss Blyth in 1887, when the Church was restored. The brass plate in memory of Henry Nottingham and his wife, now at the East end of the nave, was once thought to be the oldest in the county, but has since lost that reputation. Until 1778, it was, of course, in the Lady Chapel.
There are numerous stones in the Church in memory of members of the Holley, le Strange and Nelson families but the most striking memorial is one of the blocked-up windows in the South wall of the chancel, where there is a memorial to Richard Stone and his wife and thirteen children. This, and the double piscina and triple sedilia, to be seen in the Chancel, are usually mentioned in modern guides as the outstanding features of the Church. The organ which occupies a large part of the North side of the Chancel, was bequeathed by Mr. Thomas Nelson, and moved from Holme House, now occupied by Mrs. S.C. Reed, on his death. Within the East wall of the chancel, according to the Rev.Holley, are concealed the remains of the original wall, including the jamb of an Early English lancet window, which was in existence before Henry Nottingham came to Holme.
In the Vestry are a number of items of
interest including a sketch of the Church as it was in 1778, copied by the
Rev. W.S. Harper a list of the Rectors and Vicars of Holme, and details of the
bells, and the inscription on them. The Church-plate is of great
interest consisting of Communion Cup, paten and flagon, all left to the Church
by Clark Spelman, who died at Congham, Norfolk, in 1684. The Cup bears the
arms of the Spelman family, and on the paten is engraved, "Holme jux Mare".
As we have said a full account of the history of the Church, with details of the manors of Holme, and of past Rectors and Vicars, may be seen inside the Church. But we hope that this description will help all who read it to realise that our Church today is the result of the hard work and unselfishness of past generations in Holme.