A Thousand Years Ago
SOUTH CREAKE (in 1940).
from "The King's England; Norfolk", ed. Arthur Mee (1940), pp363-364
Here, in a village we found gladdened by hedgerows white with may, a small river comes to life, flowing
past the scanty ruins of Creake Abbey, to Burnham Thorpe where Nelson was born, and on to its outlet
at Overy Staithe. Nelson played by it and followed it to the sea, and many a village lad has followed in
Behind a ring of earthworks here the Saxons of East Anglia gathered to watch with wintry glance the
Danes marching up from the sea. It was the beginning of the Danish invasion which overthrew King
Edmund the Martyr and turned East Anglia into a Danish settlement. The invaders did not make their
way past the outpost of South Creake without a bitter struggle. Tradition says the bodies of the slain
were piled up to the height of the defences, and after a thousand years the place is known as
The surprise of this village is the delightful old church, a picture outside of an unfinished-looking
14th-century tower, and an old porch with a cluster of pillars at each side and a modern Madonna
and Child in the niche above it. As we go down the three steps leading us in we are arrested by its
beauty, it has the air of a small cathedral. Soaring arcades with stone seats round their pillars divide
the 500-year-old nave and aisles; the old font, with its carved figures hacked away, stands in glorious
isolation in front of the majestic tower arch; and a fine old screen, still showing faded medieval
painting, leads to the great chancel, 650 years old, and a blaze of light with gleaming white walls,
white windows, and white roof.
Charming splashes of colour are lent by the blue and green of the four altars, and by the little cushions
hanging from the chairs. Even the floor has a share in the scheme, for it is all paved with old tiles.
Very charming is the effect when the eight candelabra in the chancel, and others in the nave, are all
The altar is guarded by four golden angels. Angels adorn the canopied sedilia. There is a corner
piscina. The 15th-century pulpit is a little restored and has had most of its painting scratched away.
There are some fragments of medieval glass. A massive old chest, lined with cedar wood and
completely covered by studded iron bands, has a lid so heavy that seven men are needed to lift it;
it has five locks patterned with leaves and flowers, and a master key and one lock are 13th century.
The splendid 15th-century roof of the nave is adorned with 22 angels, carved and painted, and its
pillars and arches frame the fine windows of the medieval clerestory. In the spandrels of the south
aisle roof are curious carvings of a goose, another goose with a bird on its neck, and a unicorn.
There are brass portraits of John Norton of 1509 as a priest in rich robes, and of a headless civilian
with girdle and rosary. There is a mass dial on the porch and another on a buttress. The registers
date from 1538, among the oldest in England.