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Good Morning Everyone,

What a curious title, you might think!

But, there were three churches on the one site! The notes may seem long but I hope not tedious, to explain how a town could have three churches sharing a single consecrated area.

Let me explain:
Reepham is one of those fine, tiny Norfolk towns that must once have been fiercely independent, in the days before there were commuters, and before shoppers could easily drive to the nearest edge-of-the-city supermarket. It has two churches in its churchyard, St Mary's in the foreground and Whitwell behind, but once there were three - the remains of the third are still apparent and easily found (though not on a photograph!).

Reepham's three-in-one churchyard is very central, overlooking the little market place. How did it come to be home to three churches? Churches sharing churchyards is not that uncommon; there are at least a dozen examples in East Anglia, and there were once more. To understand why, we need to consider the difference between a parish and its town or village; we need to understand the medieval functions of a parish church.

The English parish system is ancient, dating back to Saxon times (that is 400-1066). In East Anglia, the ecclesiastical parishes pretty much reflect what was there a thousand years ago. Parishes are areas of land, most commonly about ten square miles, and they share contiguous borders - that is to say, there are no gaps between them. It is always possible to step from one parish into another. Everywhere in England is within a Church of England parish.

The great majority of parishes contain a single large settlement within their boundaries, which shares the parish name.

Above all, a medieval church is a parish church, not a village church. It just so happens that most of them are in the main settlement of the parish; but in Norfolk and Suffolk more than in most places, a significant minority are outside the village of their parish name. And while we may assume that the settlement will be near the middle of the parish, there are plenty of examples where it will be towards the edge; sometimes, the main settlements in two adjacent parishes will be joined on to each other, and when this happens it may have been found convenient in ancient times for the two parish churches to share consecrated ground. On a rare occasion, the settlements of three parishes may be adjacent - and this is what happened at Reepham.

The three churches here were all hard against their parish boundaries, although not actually joined on to each other.

The two surviving churches remained in separate parishes up into the 1930s, but this was increasingly an anomaly. In 1970, Whitwell church was at last declared redundant, and became the parish hall; a happy outcome for the town, and in reality no more than just another reinvention of this once-medieval building.- Norfolk Churches

I hope that makes sense to everyone.
I really enjoyed learning about how three churches existed together!

Have a good day, Bev :-)

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Additional Photos by Beverley Robinson (Royaldevon) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 8883 W: 357 N: 20594] (81303)
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