Our fourteenth century church stands in the centre of the village. Originally a very large church built in the Perpendicular style, it boasted a bell tower topped by a stone spire which was one of the tallest in Norfolk.
In the nineteenth century the spire was hit by lightning and was rebuilt only for disaster to strike seventy years later. On a fine April morning in 1948, with children playing in the playground of the school across the green (where Flint House and The Old School House stand today), the spire collapsed bringing down the tower, the nave roof and the South aisle. A pall of dust covered the village but miraculously, no-one was hurt.
After eight years, the church was reopened in its present form. The North aisle is roofed, while the nave and South aisle are grassed and open to the elements. The chancel now forms our Parish church, and there is a separate entrance to the Bedingfeld Chapel which houses the famous terracotta tombs and various monuments and memorials to the Bedingfeld family. A recently renovated model stands in the chapel showing how the church would have looked before 1948.
Disaster of a different sort struck in November 2016, when thieves stole the lead roof over the Bedingfeld Chapel. Despite temporary roofing, it proved impossible to keep the weather out of the ancient roof structure and sadly the terracotta tombs and monuments were damaged by the rainwater ingress. After years of fundraising and many grant applications,the roof was replaced in 2019 and is now protected by CCTV and a sophisticated alarm system. The interior of the chapel has now dried out. Fundraising continues towards the restoration and conservation of the terracotta tombs and monuments.
Carol concerts and flower festivals in the church, and early music concerts and pop-up cafés in the North aisle have previously all been successful fundraisers.
The church and Bedingfeld Chapel are open at the following times:
April to October 10am – 6pm
November – March 10am – dusk (weekends only)
Services are held at St John the Evangelist church every four weeks and details of the services are posted on the church noticeboard. Services rotate around the four churches in the Oxborough Group which includes St Andrew’s at Little Cressingham, St Mary’s at Bodney and St Michael’s at Didlington.
Sadly, Covid-19 restrictions mean that at present the church has had to close and services have been suspended. The PCC are closely monitoring the situation and will open the church as soon as the restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.