St Mary

Introduction - St Mary's Church

Forncett-St-Mary-2008Jun27St. Mary's church is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and was built on the original site of Forncett. The Nave is probably 13th or 14th Century, the Tower 15th Century, and the Nave originally had a thatched roof. The church was restored by Revd J.Cooper 1869 -1870. In 1980 a decision was taken to close St. Mary's, due to falling numbers in the congregation, and the furnishings were stripped out. There were many schemes for the church over the next few years, but it was eventually allowed to become overgrown and derelict.

In 2007, new neighbours moved into Church Cottage, and began clearing the graveyard, and cleaning the church. A successful Friends group was formed, and fund-raising began to restore electricity, replace rotten floors and side panelling, and some of the stained glass windows, and a local retired carpenter made an altar table and rails.

In June 2012 the church was taken out of redundancy, with the full support of the PCC, the Diocese and the Bishops of Norwich and Thetford, and became a Chapel of Ease to St. Peter's Church. A successful bid for English Heritage Grant funding was made, and in Spring 2014 the remaining restoration work will be carried out.The church is ideal for holding community events as well as Services, and is open every day 10a.m. - 4p.m. for visitors.

Carols by Candlelight & Step into Christmas

Written by May Prior on .

photos by May Prior
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A packed church enjoyed a lovely carol service in St. Mary's Church on 4th December. Philip Aldred and 'Dolce' choir performed 4 pieces, including everyone's favourite 'O Holy Night.' John Metcalf's stunning displays in the windows and font much admired by everyone. Mulled wine and mince pies were served in the village hall after the service.

For a few days in December, St Mary's Church was transformed into a mini theatre, with spotlights, coloured lights, mist and snow machines, for two performances of 'Step into Christmas.'  Produced and directed by Paul Blake, (originally from Forncett), and his cast of 16, who have all previously performed in local amateur dramatic groups, most recently the Tasburgh Players before they folded in 2012.

Delighted packed audiences enjoyed a varied and fast moving show: from traditional carols and readings, to ' Santa Baby', 'Mistletoe and Wine' , 'As long as there's Christmas', and everyone's favourite, 'White Christmas'. A rousing finale of 'I wish it could be Christmas every day' had the audience clapping and singing along.

Solos and duets performed by Paul, Trevor, Sharon, Laura, Wendy, Sonia and 15 yr old Katie, readings by Sharon, John and Lenny, and the 'Tech Team' of Paul Smith on lighting and Neil Pitcher on sound made sure it was a perfect festive atmosphere.

A big thank you to them all for their hard work rehearsing in the weeks leading up to the performances, and setting up the church with all the equipment and decorations. All proceeds from the performances will go towards the restoration fund. Thanks to the Tas Well bar for being open for refreshments.

We look forward to the next show! 

Forncett Art Group Exhibition

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Some photographs of the exhibition held 9th and 10th July at St Mary's Church, Forncett. 

In addition, the Forncett Great War Timeline has been updated to end 2016. 

photos by Richard Ball
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St Mary's font comes home

Written by May Prior on .

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photos by Richard Ball

When St. Mary's was closed in the early 1980's everything from the interior was removed or vandalised. The medieval font was given to the Roman Catholic Shrine at Houghton St. Giles, North Norfolk, where it remained for many years. After hearing of the restoration work and the 'Angels' Award last year the font was offered back to St. Mary's, being surplus to their requirements.

It was removed from the shrine in late 2015, and repaired and restored by stonemason Bruce Riley. On 27th May 2016 he installed the font back in the church. It is probable that the marble plinth is of the same type used in Norwich Cathedral.

Currently (June 2016) there are still many people alive who were christened in the font before it was removed.

St Mary's Church update

Written by May Prior on .

Photo by Sarah Prior
(click pic to enlarge)

Carols by Candlelight on 4th December at St Mary's was once again well attended. The singing was helped by 'Dolce' choir who also performed four pieces including Away in a Manger and O Holy Night.

We have been contacted by staff at the Roman Catholic Shrine at Walsingham, as they no longer have any need for the medieval font, originally from St Mary's Church, it will be returning to the Church, and should be installed in the next few months. This will be of interest to anyone who was christened there years ago when the font was used, and we'd like to hear from you.

There are a number of good quality 2nd hand books for sale in the church, do pop in and have a look if you're passing.

Historic England - Angels Award for St Mary's Church

Written by May and Graham Prior on .

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photos by Sarah Prior)

On 7th September 2015 Graham Prior and seven other members of the 'Friends of St Mary's' who have been heavily involved in voluntary work for he church, travelled to London for Historic England's Angels Award Ceremony. The church was shortlisted in the category 'best rescue or repair of an historic place of worship' along with three other churches.

The ceremony took place at the Palace Theatre, and the judges were Andrew Lloyd Webber, Emma Bridgewater, George Clarke, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall ( Dean of Westminster), Dr Bettany Hughes, and Historic England's Chief Executive Duncan Wilson.

The Friends group were delighted when Songs of Praise presenter Connie Fisher opened the envelope to reveal that they had won the award, which was presented to Graham and May Prior by Connie and Dr John Hall.

A reception at Kettner's Bar followed the ceremony, and was much enjoyed by everyone.

St Mary's Restoration nears end

Written by May Prior on .

After months of renovation work, you will all be pleased to hear that St. Mary’s will once again be open every day from the beginning of May! A christening is taking place on Sat 2nd May, and a wedding on 6th June, but other days will be open to visitors as usual.

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We are planning an open weekend on 4th and 5th July, so you can come along and talk to us about the restoration work, see all the stunning new stonework and repairs, and the new windows. The lych gate will also be fully completed by then. This will coincide with Forncett History Group’s WW1 timeline being moved to St. Mary’s from St. Peter’s church. The timetable for the weekend will be as follows:  Saturday 4th July – 11am-3pm Refreshments, raffle, large 2nd hand bookstall, WW1 artefacts on show, including medals, binoculars, war diaries, etc.  Sunday 5th July – 11am -3pm Refreshments, bookstall, and a special visitor – a WW1 soldier, in uniform, with his gun and other items, in the person of Nigel Amies who specialises in re-enactments and will be in the church to talk to visitors, and answer any questions.  Donations for refreshments welcome.

More dates for your diary:
Sunday 13th September - Service at St. Mary’s, time to be confirmed. The Bishop of Norwich will be joining us for a service to celebrate the restoration work and installation of the bell in memory of Tony Baines and Harold Turner.
Saturday 26th September - popular jazz band DixieMix will be returning to perform in the church at 7.30pm. Sure to be a sell out, so book your tickets early !Friday 4th December – Carols by Candlelight. We will once again be joined by Dolce choir and their director Philip Aldred.

Any queries about the church opening times, or any of the events, please contact us on 01508 481856 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lychgate for St Mary's Church

Written by May Prior on .


photos by May Prior and Richard Ball
(click pic for slideshow)

Harry Barker and Rod Evans have built a lych gate as an entrance to the churchyard at St Mary's Church at Forncett. They started this project in October last year and it is now all but complete.

The Bishop of Norwich has agreed to lift the restriction on marriages at St. Mary's, so weddings can now take place without the need for a special licence.

 

St Mary's Restoration - progress

Written by May Prior on .

photos by May Prior.
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Restoration work is continuing at St. Mary's church, and will, we hope, be completed by early Spring 2015. Stonemason Steve Miles and his workmen have replaced or repaired the stonework and tracery on the four Nave windows, and glass has been fitted to the two South windows by specialist fitters from DevlinPlummer Stained Glass. Patterns for new glass have been taken from the two North Nave windows, and glass should be fitted late December/early January. The Vestry windows have also had new glass fitted.

Extensive repairs are being carried out to the East wall, as metal rods fitted in Victorian times have now gone rusty and needed replacing. Repairs are also being carried out on parts of the roof and the wooden interior of the roof will be cleaned. Work should begin soon on the drains.

The annual 'Carols by Candlelight' service has had to be moved to Forncett St. Peter church for this year, on Friday 5th December at 7.30pm. Philip Aldred and Dolce choir will be leading the singing as usual, and mulled wine and mice pies will be served in the church at the end of the service

Successful 3rd Forncett Craft Fair

Written by May Prior on .

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Photos: Richard Ball

Around 100 visitors came to Forncett Steam Museum on Saturday 18th October, for the 3rd Forncett Craft Fair, this year not able to take place in St. Mary's church due to on-going restoration work. Stalls included wrought iron work, wood turning, garden decorations,, hand made cushions, toys ,cards, watercolours, and stained glass items. There were tempting home-made cakes on offer for refreshments, also warming soup and a roll. Museum owners Rowan and Jane Francis kept a jolly atmosphere by starting up the pianola situated on the ground floor of the museum, and many visitors were fascinated by the engines, although on this occasion they were not running. Plant doctor Robert Maidstone had several enquiries about pruning fruit trees, how to plant hedging, and garden pests. 

Thanks to everyone who helped organise and run the event, and to Rowan and Jane for the use of the museum.

Dolce Choir

Written by Richard Ball on .

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Photos: Richard Ball

On Saturday 10th May the Dolce Choir entertained us at the Steam Museum, an event organised in aid of Forncett St. Mary Church.

The choir, 15 strong, was directed by Philip Aldred who also acted as compere and kept the concert lively with a string of jokes.

With an interval for drinks and eats, the choir performed a varied repertoire including California Dreaming, The Rose, Fields of Barley, You raise me up, and songs from Miss Saigon and Les Miserable.

Highlights of the evening were the Titanic episode (see pics!), Highland Cathedral sung by a Caledonian native, and the audience's rendition of a first world war combo (Pack up your troubles from one side and It's a long way to Tipperaray from the other side) and the 'One old man' fugue! and Anna Cottrell's African story.

All in all, a most enjoyable evening. Thank you Dolce Choir for performing, May and Graham Prior for organising and Jane and Rowan Francis for housing it during St. Mary's refurbishment.

St Mary's Church this summer

Written by May Prior on .

Following a successful grant award to St. Mary's from English Heritage/Heritage Lottery last year, architect Nicholas Warns has completed the development stage of surveys, quotes and plans, and the restoration work is scheduled to take place this year between April and September. This will include replacing the Nave and Office windows, flint repairs, cleaning the interior wooden roof, and new drains and gutters. Events will be difficult to organise while the work is being carried out, but we are hoping that the following will take place:

Tuesday 25th March, 7p.m. - Service for the Festival of the Annunciation

Saturday 16th August 7.30p.m. - Popular jazz band DixieMix are back for another foot tapping performance. Sure to be a sell out!

Saturday 18th October - Craft Fair, 11am -3p.m.

Forncett History Group is producing a book of commemoration for the men from Forncett who lost their lives in both World Wars, and a timeline depicting major events in WW1 will be displayed in St. Mary's Church - renovation permitting - or St Peter's.

For enquiries about any events, or church opening times, please contact Graham and May Prior 01508 481856 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Carols by Candlelight at St Mary's

Written by May Prior on .

photos by Sarah Prior
(click for slide show)

Over 100 people enjoyed carols and lessons in St Mary's church on 6th December and the Dolce choir, led by their musical director Philip Aldred, performed five seasonal songs, including 'In the Bleak Midwinter', 'Shepherd's Pipe Carol', and everyone's favourite, 'O Holy Night'.

Mulled wine and mince pies were served in the village hall after the service.

Forncett Craft Fair 2013

Written by May Prior on .

photographs by Sarah Prior
(click pic for slide show)

Over 150 visitors enjoyed Forncett's 3rd craft fair held in St. Mary's church on 19th October. Soup and rolls proved very popular for refreshments and the stall holders all reported brisk business, with Ruth Walker selling out of her lovely hand painted cards very quickly.

Thanks to everyone who helped organise and run the event, and the ladies who baked cakes and biscuits to sell. £472 was raised for St. Mary's and St Peter's churches.

Cream Tea at St Mary's

Written by May Prior on .

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Over 60 people enjoyed cream teas in St. Mary's church on Sunday 18th August. Thanks to everyone who very generously donated scones, jam, tea, coffee, milk, and cash for me to buy clotted cream, and a special thank you to Mike and Jan Smail, for their help in organising, and providing all the crockery, cutlery, teapots, pretty pink tablecloths, and anti-histamine cream for a wasp sting!

With a raffle and sale of books and bric-a-brac we raised £257 for funds.

The architect's plans for the remaining restoration work on the church are now on display in the church - work should begin in April 2014.

Chester Organ Recital, St Mary's Church

Written by Richard Ball on .

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Photos: Richard Ball

Richard Bower, organ builder and Director of Music at St Nicholas, Dereham, gave a lively and very enjoyable organ recital on the the theme of Fine and Fun Organ Music, to a pretty full house at Forncett St Mary Church on 23rd August 2013.

Assisted by his wife, Barbara, Richard played his own recreation of a 1970's Hill, Norman & Beard Chester organ, and the music was selected to sound good on the limited number of pipes available. This included pieces by Susato, Bach, Handel, Boëllmann, Gordon Young, Saint-Saëns, Pietro Yon and Lefébre-Wély. I particularly enjoyed the Serenade composed by Derek Bourgeois to be his own wedding march with the express intention that no-one would be able to march down the aisle to its tempo. They might well have danced, though!

£330 was raised for the St Mary's Church Fund.

Valuation Day at St. Mary's Church

Written by May Prior on .

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Photos: Sarah Prior

A steady stream of visitors attended the Valuation Day on 20th July with a wide variety of items for senior valuers Roy Murphy and Andrew Bullock to inspect and value.
Clocks, books, jewellery, paintings, silver, and a large coin collection were among the items brought along, and along with Forncett residents there were people from Norwich, Wymondham, and a couple from Diss who said they have been following the story of the church's restoration and wanted to come and see it for themselves.

Thanks to Ann Lorne, Joan Ward and Andree Handford for serving  refreshments, Florrie Freeman, Jenny Jordan and Barbara Jackson for manning the door and making sure people got to see the right valuer for their specific items, and everyone who donated homemade goodies for refreshments.

£268 was raised for church funds.

Dixiemix a sell out

Written by May Prior on .

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A capacity crowd enjoyed DixieMix jazz band performing in St. Mary's church on 15th June, and £730 was raised to split between St. Mary's and St. Peter's churches.

Good turnout for Forncett Auto Jumble

Written by May Prior on .

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Around 150 car enthusiasts attended the 3rd Forncett Autojumble on May 12th at the Forncett Steam Museum. 

Trading was under way well before the official start time of 10 am with motorists out early for the best bargains. Organiser Philip Yull was pleased with the attendance of both stallholders and customers, helping to raise funds for the Museum and Forncett St. Mary Church.