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Welcome to The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Scarning


The parish church of St Peter and St Paul has occupied its prominent position in the village of Scarning since the 12th century. Dr Augustus Jessopp, who was Rector of Scarning from 1879 to 1911, recorded that the village comprised a few significant properties and about fifty hovels. Since then Scarning has expanded towards Dereham and now has a population of around 2400.

There have been Rectors of Scarning since 1299.  The parish is now part of a team ministry including Dereham, Scarning, Swanton Morley, Hoe, East Bilney, Beetley, Shipdham and Bradenham. The benefice is serviced by a team of clergy and lay readers led by the Rector and two team Vicars.

Scarning Hall, immediately to the west of the churchyard, used to be the rectory. A new house was built to the west but was never used as a rectory because of the re-organisation of the parishes. Both houses are now privately owned.

The churchyard was levelled and re-seeded in 1970 and Scarning Parish Council contributes to its upkeep. On the south side of the church there are the graves of some members of the family of Admiral Lord Nelson. The family had a small estate in Scarning and several children from the family attended the village school. Dr Jessopp's grave is in the south west corner of the churchyard.

The oldest part of the church is the base of the tower and this dates from the 12th century. In the south wall there are fragments of masonry which are probably earlier.  The whole building, which is mainly in the perpendicular style, was extensively restored in 1869, when the gable of the chancel roof was raised to its current pitch for £1000.  In 1894 the tower was restored, the nave buttresses were entirely rebuilt and new churchyard gates were fitted, all at the expense of Dr Jessopp. The double gates were replaced by the PCC in the 1980s. The single gate was replaced in the 1950s by the Mothers Union. It was refurbished in 2007 in memory of Fred and Lilian Hoskins.

Taking a tour round the outside of the church, starting by the porch, the nave has three windows on the south side.  These are all perpendicular in style, the centre one having elongated quatrefoils in its head. Two brick buttresses, the diagonal one having stone facings, can be seen on its south-east corner. These were probably built for reinforcement as the rood stairs are situated within the wall at this point.

The chancel has two windows on its south side. They are originally 14th century and were restored in 2006.  In between these windows lies the vestry which was built in 1576.  It used to have two storeys.  The lower storey was a chapel, and the upper one was occupied for some time by Michael Denby who was a curate and later the rector.  His name can be seen on a plaque in the vestry. 

The window to the upper storey, which must have been more like a garret, can still be seen. Until the 1970s new tiles on the west side of the roof showed where the old chimney had recently been removed.

The east window of the chancel is a Victorian renovation by William Wailes, once a colleague of Pugin.  The window was refurbished in 2006. The north sides of the chancel and the nave are very similar to the south sides. In the chancel there are two more restored windows and in the nave the three windows are replicas of those on the south side although at a different level. 

The north door is 14th century with two head stops.

The tower, built in the perpendicular style is particularly fine. It has two-stepped battlements with carved figures on the corners. The upper storey has late perpendicular windows, and there are sound holes fitted with tracery.  The base of the tower has flint arcading.  This dates from the 12th century and is the earliest part of the church.  There is also some attractive patterned flint arcading on the second stages of the diagonal buttresses. The turret stair winds up the south side of the tower with little openings with different patterns giving light to the inside of the tower.

The south porch was built in the 14th century. The sundial above the entrance arch is dated 1861.

We pass through the massive south door into the nave.  Opposite on the north wall near the font is a list giving particulars of the six bells in the tower. They comprise a treble made by Gillett & Johnson and hung in 1931, and a set of five bells cast on site (or maybe Brancaster) by Charles Newman, an itinerant bell founder.  One of them bears the inscription 'Charles Newman made mee 1703'.  The bells range in weight from approximately five hundredweights (254 kg) to fourteen hundredweights (710 kg).

The entrance to the turret stair can be seen on the south side through a very ancient wooden door opposite which is the frame of the ‚€œchimer‚€� which allows one person to chime all six bells.

The font stands at the west end of the nave.  The font is massive and dates from the 13th century and shows the Norman influence.  The bowl is roughly square, having angle columns and standing on five octagonal columns.  The font cover can be raised and lowered by a system of counter-weights and is Jacobean with a restored base.

The Royal Arms of George III, after the union with Ireland, hang over the north door.

The lectern is a fine copy in wood of the brass pelican lectern in Norwich Cathedral.  The carved figures on its base represent the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.  A silver plate records that it was a gift to the Reverend Doctor Augustus Jessopp from his parishioners in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

In 2001 the first three rows of pews were removed to provide the area of open space and a suitable setting for the celebration of Holy Communion around the nave altar table.  A new floor of hand made pamments was laid. The nave altar is a fine Jacobean table.

The rood stairs can be seen in the south-east corner behind the organ. These gave access to the rood loft and they appear to curve round inside the angle of the corner which is now reinforced by two outside buttresses.

The rood screen is good perpendicular with delicate panel tracery over one-light panels.  Doctor Jessopp wrote in the parish magazine of 1904 that the screen must have been put up where it now stands at the beginning of the 15th century.  It was intended to separate the clergy who conducted the service in the chancel from the congregation who were kept in the nave.


Above the rood screen was a platform reached via the staircase behind the organ.  Life-sized wooden figures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St John would have stood on the platform.  Regrettably the platform was taken down and destroyed in 1864.  A covering of whitewash was removed from the screen at the same time to reveal some of the original paintwork and gilding.  This was restored in the 1960s but the original paintwork may still be seen in the lower panels.

The sanctus bell was rung during the consecration of the bread and wine in Holy Communion and it used to be outside the church, probably on the roof.  It is now fixed to the south-east corner of the screen and hangs in its original frame.

The organ is a single manual instrument but it is noted for its fine tone which compliments the excellent acoustic in the church.
There are several items of interest in the chancel.  The vestry is now a single storey and on either side of the window is an aumbry.  These are recesses which were formerly used to house the communion plate and the reserved sacrament and they would have had wooden doors with locks.

A second altar stands behind the communion rail.  The splendid altar frontal was made as a project to mark the millennium.  There is a smaller Jacobean table which is similar in style to the nave altar.  In the south wall of the chancel, near the altar, is a perpendicular cinque-foiled piscine.  This is a recessed perforated stone basin for carrying away water used in rinsing the communion vessels.

The vibrant colours in the stained glass give the east window a jewel-like quality.  The window dates from 1870 and is a memorial to Phillip Norris Aufrere, son of the rector Phillip du Val Aufrere and his second wife, who are both buried near the south wall in the chancel.  The window was restored and re-leaded in 2006.  The scoinson arch of the windows is old and dates back to the 13th century.  There are two fine corbels on the east wall in the corners.
On the north wall there is a memorial alabaster figure of a child reclining on a skull and an inscribed tablet for Edward Games, son of John Games, who died just 12 hours after birth on 14 May 1623. The memorial is by the noted artist Epiphanius Evesham.   The north-west window with a brass plate below is in memory of the Revd Ellis Wharcup, RN, who was chaplain to HMS Pelorus.  He died in Melbourne in 1860 and there is also a shield showing his boar's head crest in the south-east window.

On the south wall is a memorial plaque to the Revd Doctor Augustus Jessopp, author and historian.  He was the Headmaster of King Edward VI's School in Norwich for 20 years before serving as Rector of Scarning for 32 years.  He was also a Canon of Norwich Cathedral and a Chaplain to King Edward VII.  He died in 1914.  

The church plate includes one flagon of 1706 which weighs over 65 troy ounces and a further flagon of 1746.  These items are no longer kept in the church.  They are on loan to the Castle Museum in Norwich and form part of the collection of church silver which is regularly displayed in the Castle or the Cathedral.  Scarning's ancient silver also includes a chalice which is used occasionally for Holy Communion services.

Several members of the Browne family lie buried under the high altar.  They were a Royalist family, and one tablet to Marke Browne born in Amsterdam in 1691 and deceased and interred in Scarning in 1693 speaks mutely of the connection and intermingling of East Anglia and the Netherlands in those days.  The oldest floor vault still readable is a tiny one in the chancel to the daughter of Edward Blackhall, who died in 1658.  

The Evans-Lombe family were patrons of St Peter and St Paul for many generations.

The work of caring for the building continues.  The church and vestry were re-roofed in 1979.  The clock is of the flat bed type and is wound automatically.  The church has a PA system with loop induction and a ramp to help with access.  

Switchgear and heating were replaced in 2007 with the help of a grant from Awards for All.  Five years later the windows were restored in the south wall and the porch.  

In 2012 the PCC was offered a major grant from English Heritage for high level restoration work and the installation of a new drainage system.  The offer was conditional on the PCC raising a further substantial amount toward the cost and generous support from the local community triggered grants from other bodies.  The completion of the work in spring 2015 was marked by a special service led by the Bishop of Norwich.

Also in 2015 the Village Hall Committee kindly provided new curtains for the church.

Services are held every Sunday at 11.15 and the church continues to serve as a focal point for village life in Scarning.

This is an ancient church, maintained and cherished over many generations.  We hope you enjoyed your visit and will come again.

2016 SR

The Parish Office
Church Street,

View of interior as it was in Dr Augustus Jessopp's time.

The same view of interior during the 2010 flower festival.