MORTON CHURCH before the tower fell.

MORTON CHURCH before the tower fell.

This a little village in Norfolk, between Ringland and Weston Longville. It should not be confused with the similar sounding Moreton-in-Marsh, which is a town in Gloucestershire. Most of the houses in Morton, of which there not many, do not stand on the hill but on either side of the Fakenham Road in the Wensum river valley; almost in the marsh in fact! There is a hill however, and this where Morton Hall stands. It has spectacular views towards Norwich on this steep bluff, where the remains of St Margaret’s church also stand.

On Easter Sunday 1959, when the verger had just left the church, the tower fell down with a great roar. The west end of the nave was destroyed and the small community abandoned the church for others at Attlebridge, Ringland or Weston. It remained a ruin for over twenty years. It being so remote, vandals were not a major problem although souvenir hunters were. After twenty years it was partly restored by Lady Prince-Smith of the hall, with help of the Norfolk Churches Trust. A glass wall now seals off the west end, and occasional services are held in the church, although it is technically redundant. There is no electricity but the building is now well cared for.

This church was anciently called Helmingham along with the settlement alongside; there was another church much nearer the river, which was probably called Morton. Nothing is now visible of this church, although apparently some walls could be discerned a century ago.  Some years back Molly and I went on a bluebell walk through Morton Estate, and we were told that we passed the site of the former church. It had already fallen into decay by 1300 AD, so it is perhaps unsurprising that its location is a little vague. It was dedicated to St Mary.

For many years the wife of a postman colleague of mine kept a cattery in Morton. We have never had a cat since being married, so I never used it, although I visited him in his house. When he retired from the Post Office he helped his wife with the cats, although they have now retired from that job too. They have moved to a house with a smaller garden, although not far away. They had about an acre of land, which is too much for older folk. Morton Barns along the main road once housed an art gallery, and though this has been closed for many years the sign remains on the wall.

The location of the medieval Hermitage which stood by the river bridge on the Morton side is known. It has been suggested that the medieval carving of a man and his wife discovered on the site represent the original founders of the anchorite’s cell. In the 19th century Morton had a Post Office, a shop and a pub, the White Horse. The White horse closed in 1913 and the Post Office also went the same way sometime around that period. With wooden farm wagons on the way out the village also lost its wheelwright.




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