The Chancel: Anglo-Saxon features and a curious opening.

Written by Ana Moskvina.

With the wonderful Anglo-Saxon tower being so prominent at Forncett St Peter, we sometimes forget to see what other stories the fabric of the church can tell. And yet, there are some curious things we can see in the chancel walls – we only have to look a bit more attentively!

On both north and south sides of the chancel, the typical late Anglo-Saxon ‘herringbone’ flintwork pattern stops just west of the easternmost window and short of the eaves at the top. This, most likely, indicates the possible extent of the original chancel – it was definitely lower and shorter than the present one. It is difficult to tell what shape the east end of the chancel would have looked like. It probably would have been either square or apsed; these types in the earlier Anglo-Saxon period were distributed regionally, with a preference for square chancels in the northern regions and for apses in Kent and Essex. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough of the shape of late Anglo-Saxon chancels in East Anglia to even make a guess!

Saxon Herringbone flintwork Chancel 11 08 20 Photo A Rae 14smHerringbone flintwork, North wall of the chancel. Photo: A Rae

The original Anglo-Saxon chancel was evidently extended up and eastwards, possibly in the 13th-century when the priest’s door on the south side was created, although the 15th-century windows, contemporary with the extension of the main body of the church, which included new aisles and the clerestory, may indicate that the chancel was enlarged at the same time.

Mysterious opening Photo A Moskvina smThe blocked opening. Photo: A Moskvina

 On the south side of the chancel, the Anglo-Saxon flintwork is interrupted by a curious blocked opening, just above the priest’s door. The opening is most likely a window and is likely to have been blocked when the priest’s door was installed. It is quite difficult to find a comparison for it, because preserved Anglo-Saxon windows tend to be in towers (for example at Earls Barton or Barton-on-Humber) or, if they are in the side walls, in much earlier churches not really suitable for comparison (for example, Jarrow or Escomb). A comparable example is found in Bradford-on-Avon, where the double-splayed windows of similar shape and size are a late Anglo-Saxon alteration of the earlier, most likely 8th-century, work.[1] It is interesting that parallels between this church and two other late Anglo-Saxon churches in Norfolk – at Dunham Magna and Tasburgh - have been suggested, so there are reasons to think that there could be similar stylistic connections with Forncett too.[2]


[1] Taylor, H.M., and J. Taylor. 1965. Anglo-Saxon Architecture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 87.

[2] Ibid., pp. 88-89.


St Mary an Eco Church

Written by Administrator.

St Mary’s has registered for a project called ‘Eco Church’ – its purpose is to help as many churches as possible celebrate what they are doing to care for the environment.  At the moment we have a Bronze Award for Buildings, a Silver Award for Land, Silver for Community and Global engagement, and Silver for Lifestyle. The church has met some of the criteria due to factors such as leaving a large section of the churchyard for ‘wild’ growing, and having trees planted. There is also a bio toilet, and we are in the process of putting up bat and bird nesting boxes. As we continue to be able to give positive answers to more of the questions we hope to increase those awards to the next level.

Copies of the church guide/history book written by Roy Tricker are available for £3 – contact

eco church

Jo and Raptor OR Joy and Rapture

Written by Terry Hickman Smith (as published in the Forncett Flyer November 2020).

On one of my morning walks with Nutmeg four or five weeks ago I came across a wounded kestrel at the bottom of the Sewage works footpath. It had a badly damaged right eye, it couldn’t fly and its only defence was digging its very sharp talons into my fingers.

I wasn’t sure how to deal with a wild bird in this state. After a couple of attempt to pick it up – including the bloody fingers – I tried putting my handkerchief over its eyes which calmed it enough for me to hold it. It didn’t really struggle for the whole way home but looked in a really bad way.


Via the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who recommended a lovely man who said he couldn’t do anything for the bird but put me in touch with a raptor rescue specialist called Jo. Jo runs the Phoenix Bird of Prey Rescue and came over to look at my female kestrel that afternoon. She took one look at it and pronounced that there was nothing she could do. The poor bird apparently had something that sounded to my deaf ears like Trowse Trichosis. I later found out it is actually called Frounce Trichomoniasis – a horrible virus endemic in pigeons who are not affected by it. It is thought, after much research, that where pigeons drink they leave a trace of the virus and if a raptor drinks soon after the raptor can catch it. In raptors it leads to blindness, damaged hearing, weakness, digestive problems and death. Great disappointment.

However the lovely Jo said she would try. There might be a small chance that a course of anti-biotics might help alongside intensive care and careful feeding. She took the female kestrel away and I thought that would be the last I would see of her.

About two weeks Later Jo phoned to say that, against all expectations, our kestrel was responding to treatment and was getting stronger. This week (last week in October) Jo rang again with the amazing news that she (the kestrel that is) was ready for release. Today, 29th October Jo brought her here and we released her by the bridge where I found her. It is Jo’s policy to release the birds she rescues from the place where it was found – seems eminently sensible. After a bit of a struggle to get out of the box she flew off in a big arc and landed in a tree by the footpath. Apparently that was a good release. She looked strong and happy to be flying again. Pity it was raining but preferable to release in rain than keep too long in captivity.

The big lesson to me was to have acted quickly. Another few hours may have triggered a less happy outcome. If you find yourself in similar circumstances please do act quickly.

Jo at Phoenix can be contacted on 07914 661385 and her website is

Musicals & Swing at St Mary's Church

Written by May Prior.

Director & Producer Paul Blake, & the cast of 'Ensemble' performed 'Musicals & Swing' to three packed audiences in St Mary's Church. They included a variety of show favourites, such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserable, Sister Act, Cabaret, and a selection from the 'Rat Pack' era. A finale from the Lion King had the audience singing and clapping.

Laura Macdonald - No one but you from 'We Will Rock You'

Photos by Richard Ball - Click on pic for more

A HUGE thank you to them all for their hard work in putting together and performing the show, helping to raise funds for the on-going restoration of the church.