The Early Days of All Saints
In his “Norfolk Churches”, Thomas Bryant tells us that in King Edgar’s time (944 – 975) the Manor at Thorpe Abbotts belonged to Ailfric the Good, Bishop of Elmham, who gave it to the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds (St Edmundsbury), in whose ownership it remained until the Dissolution. The Survey of 1086 known as Domesday is in fact two documents, Little Domesday covering in detail the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and Great Domesday which covered in lesser detail the remainder of England as far north as Yorkshire. Thorpe Abbotts’ entry indicates a quite prosperous manor similar in size and wealth to Brockdish and refers to having a church by the name of All Saints. It is probable that the Thorpe, or settlement was in the area round the church with the main house quite possibly on the site of the current Hall Farm. It is also interesting to note that the Church sits on high ground which becomes more obvious when you take in the view from the tower.
It is quite possible that the earliest church was of wooden construction since the Saxons tended to build in wood rather than stone particularly if you bear in mind it was a relatively small manor. The Monastery at St Edmundsbury was very wealthy being an important place of pilgrimage housing the remains of St Edmund who had been killed at Hoxne around 869. Hundreds of parish churches were built in the late 11th Century together with many great English cathedrals including the Abbey Church at St Edmundsbury.
So what of the building we have there today? It is quite possible that it was built around the time of Domesday as suggested by the two lancet windows of early English style in the north wall of both Chancel and Nave although the one in the Nave has been filled in. In addition half way down the north wall of the Nave , on the outside, is the clear outline of a round headed door formed with flints rather than shaped stone which could indicated Early English or Norman construction. The tower does not date from this time being a much later addition, more of which next month.