We live in Bowthorpe for about three months, it wasn’t my cup of tea, I’ve never quite got my head around modern houses, preferring to live in a series of brick built Victorian freezers with leaky roofs and nowhere to park, I’m clever like that. One of the hidden things about Bowthorpe is that although it is actually a flourishing settlement, and has been before, it hasn’t always been, it is in fact another Deserted Medieval Village. St Michael’s Church Bowthorpe is central to the site of the old vill, all of which is now pretty much buried under a vast 1980s development. Up until the C17th century when the village all but disappeared, its population bled away into the growing city of Norwich, just over there, with it’s bright lights and erm, turnips and sheep and stuff. Anyway the church itself is pretty much the only visual reminder of the original village sitting as it does on a rise in the ground, it feels a bit lost but it is very much at the heart of the modern Christian community in Bowthorpe now nearly touching the current rather odd church centre. Only the Chancel of the original remains, landscaped and approachable.
The Nave and Tower remains are under the current centre excavated during the 1970s. The church was reduced to a chapel in 1517 by the Dean and Canon’s of St Mary’s in the Fields in Norwich who were lords and rectors of the parish, depopulation was reported. I’ve read various bits and bobs that indicate the roof of the Nave fell in during the seventeenth century, the Chancel later used as a barn until it too started to collapse. The tower, a nice round one by all accounts, may have been used as a corn drying store, until it too gave in. Sadly there is little remaining of the village, a few clues in road lines behind the church, the level of urban build up around the site would certainly prevent any large scale landscape survey. It’s not the only DMV in the vicinity, Earlham itself ceased to exist in similar circumstances, the church remains intact the village only present as a hollow way and some parch marks in the parkland.
The name comes from Old Scandinavian “Búi’s farmstead” Boethorp (DB) 1086.
Source of Chrurch information: Simon Knott’s Norfolk Churches.