St Andrew's Church, Congham Robert Ladbrooke 1800's
There were at one time three parish churches in Congham; St Mary's, All Hallows' and St Andrew's, sited in a perfectly straight line. Only St Andrew's now stands.
All Saints Church was abandoned about 1550 and St Mary's, also known as St Anne's, was closed soon afterwards.
All Saints had apparently been suffering economic hardship for some time and, in the sixteenth century, members gave this account:
" Of anncyente tyme there have ben and lately weare two churhces eche of them with a steple and channcell in ether of the said parishes of Congham St Andrewes and Congham St Maryes but onely a chappell withowte steple or channcell in Congham All Sayntes...theer is verye lyttle arrable lande within the said pishe of All Sayntes and that the parishners of Congham All Saynts have allwayes ben and yet be fewer and poorer than the parsihners within either of the other two parishes."
St Andrews, then, remains. The building dates from the early C13th but has been extensively restored. Early records include a Bishop's Licence granted in 1487 to allow fund raising for restoration following damage by a lightning strike. Further restoration took place in the Victorian period.
The nave and chancel, of the same width suggesting a early date, have a fine barrel vaulted roof.
C13th century although the base was renewed in 1864. The Reredos and pulpit came from the Royal Carving Workshop at Sandringham in about 1864.
Sir Henry Spelman, C17th antiquarian and his son, an explorer and settler, came from Congham and members of the family are buried here. Two members of Lord Nelson's family, his father's first cousin Edmund and a second cousin James were Rectors at Congham in the C18th.
The fine east window is of three lights and is of high quality. The left hand panel as we look at it features the nativity; less is more with just Jesus and His parents with a single lamb. Central is the crucifixion; Mary mother of Jesus and John look up intently at Jesus, hands clenched! Mary Magdalene, is collapsed at the foot of the cross in anguish.
The third panel shows Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene after rising from the tomb. In the second panel, Mary Magdalene's nimbus, her halo, is white. When meeting the risen Christ though, her nimbus is a radiant golden!
Other stained glass include a depiction of Faith Hope and Charity and an intriguing depiction of St Hubert and St Elizabeth.
The legend is that Hubert was hunting one Good Friday morning whilst the faithful were in church. The stag that he was hunting turned and looked at him, with a crucifix floating between its antlers. Hubert heard a voice which said that unless he amended his ways and lived a holy life, he would go quickly to hell! He did amend his ways and was to become the first Bishop of Liege in 708AD.
St Elizabeth is often, as is the case here, depicted holding a basket of bread, or some other sort of food or drink, characteristic of her devotion to the poor and hungry.
One other thing we do know is that the church was/is linked to the (old) Rectory by an underground tunnel, which it would be fascinating to excavate but it's full of water!
In 2017, the Church was modified and a few pews were removed by the tower and a small meeting place was created.
With the addition of a new kitchen in the Tower, the Church can be used for many more types of function and is open for use for other village events. ( It also helps to have a toilet in the grounds).