The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Attleborough.

This church is up close and personal for me. My third great-grandfather, Christopher Spanton [1791-1857] and his wife Ann Maria Wright [1816-1883] lived and attended church here after moving from Great Yarmouth. Christopher practiced law in the town and also built up a considerable property portfolio around Norfolk. For a time they lived in the house adjoining the church. I also spent a few years living in Attleborough.

This is a Parish and former Collegiate Church. According to a medieval account, the young St Edmund spent a year with priests at Attleborough before his coronation in Suffolk in 856. There was certainly a college of priests here in the fourteenth century. The Church was then dedicated to the Holy Cross.



The interior of this church is a feast for the eyes as many wall paintings still exist and one gets the smallest idea of how richly decorated the walls of all our churches once were. At the Reformation the continued existence of any sacred painting was out of the question [particularly images of Beckett which were expressly banned by Henry V111 in 1538]

The pictures below are of the Tower Mural. Stylistically it has been dated to around 1500. It was uncovered in 1844, an engraving made and within weeks whitewashed over again. Uncovered again in 1935 much of the lower section of the Cross had been lost. We know that the upper left hand figures are Jeremiah and Isiah from the engraving detail.




The screen is fifty-two feet wide and has twenty-four sections or bays. In this one below [double-click to enlarge and zoom all photos] are  the Virgin and Child, with the two St Johns. The Baptist, camel-hair raiment points to the Lamb of God. The Evangelist, about to drink poison is saved by a serpent flying from the cup. The Virgin, as Queen of Heaven,carries a scepter, wears contemporary court dress and there are traces of a crown. The small tonsured figure at her feet has a red cassock and hood, everyday wear of a medieval rector. From 1470-1478 this rector was John Heyhoo.


Details of the photo below. This is the Trinity,below the Father’s abraded face the Holy Spirit appears as a dove. A white cloth with the traces of an inscription, ‘In manus tuas, domine’ [into Thy hands O Lord’  holds a child representing a soul. To the left a haloed archbishop is likely to be St Thomas Becket. On the right  is St Bartholomew, with the flaying knife of  his martyrdom.


On the south wall near the screen is an artistic representation of what the original 6 paintings may have originally looked like.


Stained Glass…

The north aisle window of 1897 has Christ preaching from the Ship



And finally


Curiosities to look out for include:

1. A solid oak alms-box bound with iron, with three locks and set with pebbles to detect burglary,

2. A grave slab much older in style than the fourteenth century, a relic of the earlier church building

3. A small fifteenth century door and priest room.


3 thoughts on “The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Attleborough.

  1. A very impressive church and fascinating history . Do you know why, after uncovering the wall painting in 1844 the decision to re paint over it was made? Would the reason have been aesthetics or religious views being differently interpreted at that time? Thank you.

    • The rector at the time Dr Jonathan Tyers Barrett, thought it ‘not immediately connected with the performance of Public Worship’, according to the little guide book.

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