Welcome to St Mary's Church - a remarkable resurrection story in our time

A 32-page illustrated guide - A History of St Mary's Church Forncett - has been complied by Roy Tricker. His absorbing love of churches has led to writing more than 200 church guidebooks. - see more

A fascinating little church in south Norfolk where we are in touch with history and can enjoy craftsmanship from many periods. A Holy Place, made sacred by over 900 years of prayer and care. Old churches are like people. Each one is unique with its own fascinating character. Each is also the product of a great deal of love and care - with sometimes a few bumps and bruises along the way.

St Mary's is a prize example of the nursing back to health - a remarkable resurrection story in our own time. This would not have happened without the vision, dedication and sheer hard work of Graham and May Prior who moved to live alongside the church in 2007. Fearful of what might happen to a church in neglect, they set out to garnish support for a restoration project that has secured almost £500,000 funding and made St Mary's once again a jewel in the Upper Tas Valley and a versatile asset for the village community.

Thanks to our sponsors

We would like to acknowledge the support we have received from many organisations, principally the National Heritage Lottery Fund. Without this generosity we would not have been able to achieve the very significant progress in restoring the church to become once again an integral part of the life of the church and the local community. (see all our sponsors)

Trudi Hughes (third right) with David Kirk, Bev Poole, Nick Warns, Graham Prior in front of the bust of John Colonso, the 19th century rector who went on to help introduce Christianity to sub Saharan Africa.

Accolade on St Mary's restoration from Historic England

When Trudi Hughes chartered building surveyor visited the church we asked her for her impressions:

Trudi, when did you first see this church?
Well, it was around 15 years ago, and I remember visiting here with Graham. It was surrounded largely by quite a lot of greenery, roof tiles were slipping, I could see the tower was in a bit of dire straits and Graham announced that he wanted to save this building. I thought gosh! I didn’t want to say this at the time, but it was quite an amazing thing to take on - and I half thought he might not be able to do this. But I’ve come back here 15 years later and I find a real transformation. 

You’d not seen it again in 15 years. It must have been a derelict church, half abandoned really, in the process of becoming a ruin and you see it here today. What has impressed you most about what you’ve seen here todayTrudi?
Not just the condition of the building, but it’s the care that’s been lavished on it, every particular space in here. It exudes loving care and also it’s very welcoming and I think what also comes across is that it’s retained its character and purpose as a place of worship, but it feels like a very much valued community space. I felt immediately comfortable coming into this building. Musically I felt welcomed.

What is the most important thing in preserving a church like this, first and foremost, to maintain it for the future?
Basically, as with all buildings, making sure your building can adequately discharge excess water away from the building. That means attention to keeping your roof in good condition, your gutters, downpipes and below ground drainage. Because if you do that …. and, of course, it does require annual attention to check and do interim repairs …..if you do that, then most of your damp problems and structural defects won’t manifest.

You must have seen many churches in the course of restoration. How does this compare with other projects you’ve seen over the course of your time?
I use the word transformation, it’s a light touch transformation here. You haven’t spent millions of pounds and you’re to be congratulated for that. What you have shown here is that you have dramatically turned round the fortunes of this building with a certain amount of money - but with an attention to spending money on things wisely and not going over the top. And I think the evidence of that is all around and I suppose the other key thing is there is an ongoing community commitment keeping this building going.  

War Memorial now over 100 years old

  This memorial was designed by Thomas Rayson of Oxford, whose designs are seen in several Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire churches, and some of the Oxford colleges


cows in field
lych gate
porch entrance