NorfolkSTIFFKEYStJohnStMary(barrymarshCC0)1 BarryMarsh

St John & St Mary

The church has a history which goes back over 900 years and there is a suggestion that it occupies a burial mound from the pre Christian era. This is a holy place where generations of worshippers have felt drawn to God.

Stiffkey, Norfolk

Opening times

The church is open everyday.


Church Street
NR23 1QJ

At the time of the Norman Conquest the village contained two principal estates. Only one church appears in Domesday but either then, or soon after, there were two churches (St John and St Mary) in the same churchyard. One was deconsecrated and from the mid 16th century it crumbled away.

Looking downhill one has a good view of the attractive mixture of flint work, dressed stone and old red bricks. In the porch and the parapet, there has been liberal use of the white knapped flints which are so much a feature of churches in this part of Norfolk. The mouldings on the porch entrance show this to be early 15th century.

The central south window contains fragments of medieval stained glass, the lower section containing five 15th century heads; to which of the two churches these belonged is uncertain. There are brass memorials from the 17th century the Branthwayte memorial, recording the sad deaths of five of Revd Branthwayte's young children in the 18th century. The most conspicuous feature of the chancel is the fine monument, by Giles de WittBacon memorial Stiffkey, in black marble to Sir Nathaniel Bacon who moved into Stiffkey Hall in 1578. It depicts a draped coffin and the inscription leaves a space for his death, which detail (1622) was never inserted.

The grave of Harold Davidson, the former Rector, is near the north side of the churchyard. The trial of Harold Davidson was a sensational story in the 1930s. For many years he spent most weekdays helping young women in London. Following a breakdown in his relationship with the local establishment an investigation by the church led to his defrocking for immorality at Norwich Cathedral in 1932. Wanting to clear his name, he spent his final years hying to raise money in increasingly eccentric ways. Sadly his death came through being mauled by a lion at a Skegness seafront sideshow. 

By moving round behind the east end window, we come to the peaceful churchyard conservation area, centred on the mound marking the probable position of the second church. This area is tended by parishioners to encourage wildflowers, butterflies and lichens.

  • Wildlife haven

  • Spectacular stained glass

  • Social heritage stories

  • National heritage here

  • Magnificent memorials

  • Glorious furnishings

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Famous connections

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Captivating architecture

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Space to secure your bike

  • Parking within 250m

  • On street parking at church

  • Level access to the main areas

  • Dog friendly

  • Café within 500m

  • Accessible toilets nearby

  • Church of England

  • Repair Grant, £7,500, 2008

  • Our Repair Grants funded urgent repair work to help keep churches open.

Contact information

Other nearby churches

All Saints

Cockthorpe, Norfolk

This small and compact church is full of character and interest.

Binham Priory

Binham, Norfolk

The Priory church of St Mary & the Holy Cross was the nave of a Benedictine priory church, the priory was dedicated to St Mary and the church to the Holy Cross.