It seemed rude not to, I’ve been driving past Bawsey for far too long, so on a trip to Derbyshire to drink and take in a band (Phantogram) with my Nephew Rich, I made an attempt to stop. In fact I had two attempts at it, Sundays’ mission was stopped by the heavens opening for about 5 hours which involved half the fen roads being flooded to add to the general gloom. Monday was more successful and just involved missing the side road twice, always irritating when you can see the prize.
Quite on the beaten track and very visible, you can see this oddly beautiful church from the Coast Road as you head to or from Hunstanton and Cromer to King’s Lynn, on the A149. Access is mercifully good but quite boggy, which is okay if you really don’t give a stuff about whatever rust bucket you’re driving as it is muddy and potholed. The Church and village featured on Time Team in the late 1990s, and was quite some settlement by the look of it, the programme featured a believed Viking attack when a skeleton was found with a head wound, later disproved, it was in fact an early example of trepanning, unsuccessful trepanning at that. Believe to be causewayed inside a giant enclosure with a landing area for boats as it sits on an area of high ground and would have been almost surrounded by water on a headland at a point where King’s Lynn would have been in the sea. St James’ is and was large Norman cruciform church with a central bell tower, so high status. Typical of West Norfolk it features a lot of Iron-rich red crag, with some flint and a bit of imported. It was originally monastic, later becoming the parish church for Bawsey.
The structure itself is Norman, now pretty degraded with large cracks in the tower and corner joints shifting out, it still commands some respect though sitting as it does on a rise in the land surrounded by cows and visible for miles. The land’s arable past has stripped the surface detail off the settlement itself, so no tell-tale hollow ways, all the landscape features having long since been ploughed back flat, imagination allows you to pretend and I suspect the access track was a road at some time. There is also a pond nearby which looks like it could have been something to do with the village, but could equally be a Marl Pit. The field boundaries also feel like some could be trackways, I might be imagining this, but not imagining things doesn’t get you very far. If you check the site out on Aerial photos you can see some evidence of something in the fields in crop mark form, particularly to the South East. Although the larger part of the settlement was probably to the North East.
There’s evidence of settlement here going back to at least the Iron Age, an Anglo-Saxon Grave marker in King’s Lynn Museum that was found. Further up the track the site of a moated house, both sites are scheduled ancient monuments. This area is rich in these sites; not always due to greedy feudal capitalism, the soils play a part. Leizate is nearby, although it’s vanished into quarries themselves the result of other older histories of earth movement and Ice. Mintlyn is just over the road, another ruin in a field.
This desertion dates from C16th, when your fairly typical landowner decided to tell the locals to “get orf moi laand” He knocked down everything except this, mercifully, and farmed right up to it. The church was still being used for Baptisms even after the miserable greedy old bastard had slung everyone out. By the C18th it was a ruin, and has been repaired a bit. The Stone elements show some evidence of heavily eroded graffiti too, the only legible one dating from 1840 on a plinth, some of the tracery is still visible around the doors and windows. A beautiful little place, worth the wander and it’s nice to touch these old things and get mucky boots.