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Our Churches.

St. Mary and St. Margaret ~ Church of England.

Church Lane, Sprowston Vicar Revd. Canon Simon Stokes. (2015)

Although there is very little evidence, it is possible that our lovely Parish Church most likely replaced a Saxon dwelling, possibly a “Grub House” (Grubenhauser).

“Grub House” (Grubenhauser)

We know that there has been a Parish Church since 1119, as the church gave some land to build the Leper Hospital (Lazar House) on Sprowston Road.

It was known as the “Church in the fields of gold”, as it was surrounded by fields and a few dwellings.

Church in the fields of gold

At his coronation, William the Conqueror promised to uphold existing laws and customs. The Anglo-Saxon shire courts and 'hundred' courts (which administered defence and tax, as well as justice matters) remained intact, as did regional variations and private Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions.

To strengthen Royal justice, William relied on Sheriffs (previously smaller landowners, but replaced by influential nobles) to supervise the administration of justice in existing county courts, and sent members of his own court to conduct important trials. However, the introduction of Church courts, the mix of Norman/Roman law and the differing customs led to a continuing complex legal framework. During the 13th and 14th centuries the old religious and social certainties began to give way. A strong pressure toward church reform began to develop and the church and the state (whose nucleus was the royal court) came to be at odds. The Kings court also came into conflict with the rest of the aristocracy, i.e. the nobility, and there was a good deal of talking and sometimes fighting for power between them. Serfdom was on its way out as peasants were in a better bargaining position with landowners because of the labour shortage created by the (Black Death) plague. Because of the Black Death nearly a third of the population of this Parish died. This meant that the Parish Church and the services it provided would be affected, because of a shortage of monks/ priests. However two trustees of the Parish Church, Sir William de Wychingham and Robert de Yelverton of Rackheath helped. They ensured a future supply of Clerks to perform the divine service by giving the Parish Church to the Prior and Convent of Norwich. This was on condition that they find two monks from the Convent to study at a University and two Chaplains to perform divine service in the Parish Church daily - forever. A sum of 40 Marks was paid to the Prior and Convent.

John de Bawdeswell was Rector of Sprowston Church in 1336; did he survive the onslaught of the Plague? One has certain sympathy for those two monks who had to trek over Mousehold to our Parish Church and return in all sorts of weather. People in Sprowston today have mentioned seeing the ghosts of monks walking to Sprowston Church or on their way to St. Benet`s Abbey!

In a lot of cases the parish churches were influenced by the Lords of the manor and I suspect that our Parish Church also came under the lord`s influence. Henry VIII`s is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. His disagreements with the Pope led to his separation of the Church of England from papal authority, with himself, as King, as the Supreme Head of the Church of England and to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Because his principal dispute was with papal authority, rather than with doctrinal matters, he remained a believer in core Catholic theological teachings despite his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Civil War between the Royalists and Roundheads (Parliamentarians) which started in 1642, had some impact on parish churches like ours, some of the tomb artefacts were damaged during this period. Unfortunately after the War some churches became derelict and the parish church of Beeston St. Andrew (dedicated to St Andrew) was in ruins in the 17th century and the parish is ecclesiastically united with St. Mary and St. Margaret Parish of Sprowston..

The Parish Church has been altered many times; most notably the round (Saxon?) tower became derelict (60 year period) in the mid-17th century, as a new square tower was erected in the early part of the 18th century.

St. Cuthberts. Church of England.

Wroxham Road.

Because the increase of industry in the City of Norwich, there were more dwellings built, and in order to serve the rapidly growing population of Sprowston, it was felt that another church would be required. The church and the adjacent vicarage were paid for by the Gurney family, who lived at Sprowston Manor and the church was built in 1886.

The church was built on the land called Fairstead Field, which for many centuries was used by Sprowston Fair, from the 13th century till the year 1828, when the fair was stopped by the Council. The main local industry was brick-making and the pub on the opposite side of the Wroxham Road roundabout is built on the former site of the brickworks hence the name “The Brickmakers”. It is not surprising therefore that the church is built entirely of brick, made in and known locally as the “Sprowston Reds”, as are the terraced cottages situated on the opposite side of Wroxham Road.

St. Georges. Catholic Church.

Rev Sean Connolly - Parish Priest. Sprowston Road, Norwich.

Built in 1960`s the church is conventional in design, a hall church with the altar at the east. I understand that it is considered to be one of the largest Catholic Churches in Norfolk.

Methodist Church. Wroxham Road.

Primitive Methodism began to flourish in Sprowston by the mid-19th century. A few brave and stout-hearted people, who used to meet in a small house on Sidney Row, off Sprowston Road, now City of Norwich, saw the great need for missioning Sprowston, and, despite much local opposition, progress was made.

Among the leaders of this movement were Mr. G. Want and his father, and Mr Noah Rudd who later went to Old Catton Society. The group then moved to a lean-to room, attached to a row of cottages near the present chapel (on Sprowston Road?). One of the earliest houses used for meeting was in Sidney Row and then a lean-to room belonging to a family called Holborn on Sprowston Road. After some years, part of a large orchard on the corner of Sprowston Road and Shipfield was bought for £40 and Sprowston Road Methodist Chapel built. The foundation stones were laid on the 16th April 1875, one of them on behalf of the Norwich philanthropist and mustard manufacturer, J.J. Colman, M.P. and the new chapel was opened on 29th July 1875 with a sermon by Robert Key. The society had 37 members and an average Sunday congregation of 170. The plain brick chapel had a neat look with round-headed windows and doorway. Its cost was £417.8.5 1 /2 d of which £250 was borrowed at 5%. It seated 200 people and the whole was surrounded by a low wall topped by iron palisading.

Sunday School treats were great events and were held in Moore`s Field, far up the Sprowston Road. Then, on one memorable occasion, a local contractor (William Graver) volunteered to take the School to Beeston Park, with a Traction engine pulling two large farm wagons, laden with children, teachers, food, etc. Perhaps the event would not have been so well remembered if it had not been for the performance of “stoking up” on the way. This occurred twice, with the result that the unfortunates in the first wagon arrived at Beeston covered in soot!

The leaders of the School also took an active part in the activities of the Chapel. There were the week night services alternating with the Prayer Meetings, while another regular feature was the open air services, with an annual camp meeting when the Society marched down the Sprowston Road towards the City, singing hymns, stopping near Humphrey Lusher’s Timber Yard, near Hoopers Lane, to hold meetings there morning and afternoon. We leave the early days of the Church remembering such names as those of Want, Pointer, Rudd, Patterson, Drake, Holborn, Lusher, Lovett, Ribbons, Watson, Marsh and many others.

On July 14th 1949, a ceremony took place which marked another milestone in the Chapel`s history. This was the handing over to the Trust of the Deeds of a parcel of land, 1.3 acres in extent, situated in the Parish of Sprowston, as a site for a new church.

Gage Road Chapel.

Gage Road Chapel began as a church plant from Oak Grove Chapel when the number of Christians in the area began to grow in the 1970`s A process of Christian Growth through personal witness meant that several families began coming to church and there was a need to begin a Sunday School in the area which, initially, was held in Sparhawk Avenue School. Later there was the opportunity to build a church on land that was originally intended for a superstore. The plot was bought and the building was opened on June 26th 1982. Since then the Church has grown, developed and changed. In March 2006 Michael Graves was appointed Pastor, bringing to the position a wide variety of experiences in several skills, including management in Civil Service, teaching at the City College and involvement with several churches/church groups through connections with Evangelical Alliance.

Chinese Cantonese Speaking Methodist Church.

The Chinese community of Norwich and Norfolk needed a place of worship and they were offered the use of the Methodist Church as a meeting place. This they did do for many years, until recently, when we believe they have moved to new premises.

Sprowston Heritage was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to film the group at the Methodist Church; we were able to make a short film “East meets East”. <gallery widths=200px> Methodist Church 11.JPG|Members of the Norwich Chinese Cantonese Methodist Church and `helpers`. <gallery widths=200px>


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