St Clement Church Colegate

The Church of St Clement the Martyr is a powerful element of the townscape of ‘Norwich Over the Water’. Its chancel stands hard by Fye Bridge Street and its elegant tower dominates the eastern end of Colegate.

Since becoming redundant in the 1960’s the church has been used for counselling and pastoral work, and is open every day for anyone wanting to pray, to have peace and quiet or to appreciate the interior. This use has enabled St Clements’s to retain all of its furnishings.

 

Early History

St Clements’s was built close to Fye Bridge, the river crossing of the major historic north-south axis of the City (King St / Magdalen St). The church is thought to be Saxon in origin and to have been one of the first in the City erected on the north side of the river. It probably dated from around 1040, although no evidence from this period is visible.

Exterior

The present Nave replaces an earlier, narrower one, the corner stones of which are visible embedded in the west wall on either side of the tower.  The church has no porch, though it is possible that the rougher flint-work round the south door may be the remains of one now incorporated into the widened Nave.

The Chancel, Nave and Tower are all in the Perpendicular style and probably date from the early C15th. However, the Decorated style of the east window of the Chancel suggest an earlier date for that part of the building. The Nave is wide but without aisles, relatively short and has a low pitched roof, making it look rather ‘heavy’: the former narrower Nave with a steeper roof would have been better proportioned.  The tower, on the other hand, with corner buttresses at the four stages and a battlemented parapet decorated with flushwork, is most elegant. The tower clock has a fine classical frame, but is somewhat mismatched with the Medieval belfry window which it covers - but only partly. 

Interior

Fifteenth Century

The wall arches on both sides of the Chancel, enclose deeply recessed windows, or sections of blank wall. Do these represent an attempt to refine earlier thick and irregular walls? Also of this date is the Chancel roof, with its arched bracing and its wall posts supported on corbels carved with angels bearing shields – two with trumpets. The posts rest, rather uncomfortably, on the springings and apexes of the wall arches. The font is in the Perpendicular style and carved with flowers and leaves.

Sixteenth Century

In the floor of the Nave can still be seen a brass memorial to Margaret Petwoode dated 1514.

The Wood Family: a large floor slab just inside the main door, from which the brass has been removed, is very possibly the remains of the memorial referred to by Francis Bloomfield the 18th century historian as being that of the wife of Edmund Wood. Edmund Wood became Mayor in the mid 16th century and is recorded as having been buried ‘before the aulter of Our Lady’. He almost certainly built and lived in the magnificent house on the corner of Fye Bridge Street and Fishergate, ‘rediscovered’ in 1990 and now the King of Hearts.  His son Robert, who also became Mayor, was buried in the chancel. He welcomed Queen Elizabeth on her visit to the City, but we are told that the festivities went on so long that he had to ‘forbear the utterance of…his Oration because it was about seven of the clock and Her Majesty had then five miles to ride.’ He had to content himself with presenting it to her in writing, whereupon she ’made him a Knight [and departed] with the Water standing in her eyes.’

In the South Churchyard is a box-tomb inscribed to the memory of the parents of Mathew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Elizabeth, though it is clearly of a much later date. In 1549 he preached here against the ‘hurliburlies’ of Kett’s Rebellion. He left money for an annual sermon in the church, which continues to this day.

 

Late Nineteenth Century

The 19th century saw wealthy families moving out of the parish and poor people and industry taking over. The established church came to see its task as one of mission to the poor, partly – it must be said – in competition with the Nonconformists.  In 1889 a musicians’ gallery, double decker pulpit and box pews were removed and the present furnishings were installed. They include pews with attractively varied carved panels on the ends.

Stained glass is limited to the borders of the windows at either end on the church. The green tinted glass of the west window combines with the vibrant orange boarder to give a surprisingly pleasant light. All other windows are clear glass making the Nave an airy light space.

 

Churches managed by NHCT are highlighted in in bold below. Click to visit a church.
All Saints Westlegate St. George Tombland St. Julian St. Michael at Plea
St. Andrew St. Giles St. Lawrence St. Peter Hungate
St. Augustine St. Gregory St. Margaret St. Peter Mancroft
St. Benedict St. Helen St. Martin at Oak St. Peter Parmentergate
St. Clement St. James Pockthorpe St. Martin at Palace Plain St. Saviour
St. Edmund Fishergate St. John de Sepulchre St. Mary Coslany St. Simon & St. Jude
St. Etheldreda St. John Maddermarket St. Mary the Less St. Stephen
St. George Colegate St. John Timberhill St. Michael(Miles) Coslany St. Swithin