NorfolkELSINGStMaryVirgin(michaelgarlickCC-BY-SA2.0)1 MichaelGarlick

St Mary the Virgin

Built for Sir Hugh Hastings, this church has the widest nave in East Anglia with no aisles or columns a splendid uninterrupted space along with the magnificent memorial brass are just two of the many historic features of this 14th century church.

Elsing, Norfolk

Opening times

The church is open from 9am to 5pm daily.


The Street
NR20 3EA

Inside there are many significant architectural features. The most immediately visible on entry is the impressive scale of the unsupported nave, some 12 meters in width thought to be the widest such pillar less construction in any parish church in East Anglia, possibly England.

The high altar has hidden beneath it a 2.2 metre long Purbeck marble slab with a French Lombard inscription which is a memorial to a Franciscan monk called Bourle. A sketch prepared for the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society in the 1860's indicates the wording on the stone. The Franciscans came to England in 1224 and perhaps it was a holy act to place this earlier monument in a special position under the high altar in the new church of the 1330s.

Hastings tomb and brass sits on the floor in the chancel and shows the importance of Sir Hugh Hastings who died in 1347. Lying on the Purbeck marble grave slab is the 1.7 metre long brass figure representing Sir Hugh, in full armour. Originally fully gilded and his coat of arms also covered in pigments and the whole thing variously enhanced by enamels. At the time this was perhaps the earliest brass in England which contained coloured glass.

The Rood Screen was chosen as one of ten screens in East Anglia to be recipient of a study by the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge 2015. It was cleaned and conserved and infrared scanning revealed invisible and intricate 15th century paintings. The 14th century octagonal font, dated around 1340 is thought to have the oldest canopy of the decorated period in existence. The font has a remarkable canopy which the listed building citation describes as having traceried panels, pinnacled by flying buttresses and a crocketted spire.

A five panel east window now almost exclusively of clear leaded glass, unfortunately it was blown out in the gales of 1781, although the pieces were collected up, full restoration was not undertaken until 1901. Because of severe delays and 'souvenir' losses there was only sufficient glass left to fill a part of the nearby southern chancel windows.

  • Captivating architecture

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Magnificent memorials

  • National heritage here

  • Social heritage stories

  • Spectacular stained glass

  • Wildlife haven

  • Accessible toilets nearby

  • Bus stop within 100m

  • Car park at church

  • Dog friendly

  • Level access to the main areas

  • Ramp or level access available on request

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Tea Cup café Thursdays 2pm to 4pm during summer. Annual sponsored bike ride September.

  • Church of England

  • Partnership Grant, £10,000, 2011

  • Our Partnership Grants funded a range of repair projects, recommended by County Church Trusts, to help keep churches open.

Contact information

Other nearby churches

St Mary the Virgin

North Tuddenham, Norfolk

Treasured church with a 14th century tower, loved for its stained glass windows, rood screens, windpipe organ and unique wall tiling.

All Saints

Weston Longville, Norfolk

Beautiful 14th century church with many original features and one famous 18th century incumbent: Parson Woodforde.

St Nicholas

East Dereham, Norfolk

Dereham's church is doubly impressive: not only is it a grand town church complete with integral tower, is also has a massive, quite separate, bell tower.