Underneath the arches

A HISTORIC ruined church on the doorstep of Winterton may eventually have to be closed to the public. 

Hidden away among the trees close to Burnley Hall at East Somerton, the beautiful and atmospheric remains of St Mary’s attract walkers, history fans and the plain curious.

But there are fears what is left of the building will become unstable if the decay is allowed to continue unhindered. Cracks have appeared in two arches and need to be repaired.

Now Winterton Parish Church, which owns it, is putting out feelers to see if there is enough interest for a friends group to be formed with the aim of preserving the ruins and using them to provide training in traditional stonemasonry.

Sandra Laws from the parochial church council said: “The lovely old ruin is a favourite walking destination of many. The church is the responsibility of Winterton Church, Parochial church council and priest. Unfortunately it is now in need of urgent repair work. 

“The PCC would like to form a friends group of St. Mary's ruin to work with Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust to repair the building and hence keep the building open to the public by foot. We are unable to obtain insurance in its present state.”

If a committee is formed, with the help of the trust it will be able to apply for funding not only to repair some of the ravages of time, but to offer valuable training to young people and provide visitors with information

The tower, dates back to the 13th century while the walls of the nave are thought to have been built in the 15th century, but the chancel has disappeared. It is thought to have fallen into disuse during the 17th Century in the wake of the Reformation.

Given a Grade II listing more than 55 years ago, the church featured in a list of Britain’s most mysterious ruins, compiled by the official website for the BBC History Magazine.

Writer David Hamilton said: “In its heyday it must have been an awe-inspiring church, as even today the sheer size of the place is staggering.”

He thought it had an other-worldly, almost fairytale feel to it. 

Accessible only from the bridleway that passes close by, it is one of the highlights of walking routes from the dunes nature reserve at Winterton to Somerton.

Anyone interested in helping to form a group should contact Sandra Laws: