[google9e69c0a38572f0b4.html]
Gorleston on Sea Saint Mary Church NR31 7BZ


Gorleston on Sea Saint Mary Church, Saint Mary’s was founded in 1850 by priests from the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. They built the Church and worked in Great Yarmouth until 1962 when the care of the parish was handed to the Diocese of Northampton. The parish was later served by the Augustinian Friars from 1972 to 1995 and by the clergy of the Diocese of East Anglia from 1995 to the present day. For over 100 years the community was also served by the Sisters of St Louis who taught in St Louis and St Mary’s schools. St Louis school closed some years ago and St Mary’s relocated to Gorleston where they have a much larger site with playing fields. The main entrance is through the porch in the base of the tower leading into the west end of the building. At once the full beauty of the church can be appreciated. Nothing detracts the eye or breaks the effect. Notice the ceilings decorated in traditional East Anglian style in crimsons, blues, greens and gold. The ceiling panels contain over 800 carved wooden bosses.Walking towards the north aisle, you will see on your left a large oil painting of the Nativity. This is at least 180 years old and has recently been restored. Turning into the aisle you will see some of the Stations of the Cross, including the nailing of Christ to the Cross. Look out for the nail held in the teeth of the man hammering in the nails. At the end of the aisle there is a carved font and pulpit. The font has been moved from the back of the church, the pulpit lowered and the Sanctuary floor raised to conform to modern liturgy. The Sacred Heart chapel, with its limestone Altar is part of the original design. On the floor of the chapel there is a memorial brass to Father Lythgoe S.J. parish priest from 1852 until 1855. Moving to the centre aisle the full beauty of the Sanctuary can be seen. The limestone Altar with its many saints, the east window, and the wall paintings are typical of early East Anglian churches. To the right of the Sanctuary there is a stone niche with a statue of The Immaculate Conception. This was erected in memory of the builder of the church, Father Lopez. In 1978 all the statues were vandalized, leaving Our Lady’s statue in over 200 pieces. Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus, a fine wood carving, needed a new face and hand, and the rest of the statues’ needing major restoration. This was taken on free of charge by a local craftsman, the work taking over two years to complete. The next area you approach was once the Sacristy but in the late 1890’s it was rebuilt as a Lady chapel. Gorleston on Sea Saint Mary Church, The stained glass in the window is considered to be the best in the church. The chapel contains the Shrine of Our Lady of Yarmouth. This originated in the time of the wars between England and France in the fourteenth century. A nearly record says: “After the battle of Sluy’s in 1340, King Edward the third, with many of his followers went on a pilgrimage to our Lady of Ardenbugh” “The ships of the town of Great Yarmouth above all the English navy at the time were commended for their service”. Many Yarmouth sailors went with the King on this pilgrimage. On their return they founded, under it’s local name, the Altar of Our Lady of Yarmouth in the Benedictine church of Saint Nicholas. By 1378 devotion to Our Lady under this title had grown and a chapel was built and dedicated. This stood until 1619 when it was demolished and the stone used to repair the harbour. In 1921 Father Thompson S.J. restored the shrine to its new home at Saint Mary’s. He commissioned Archibald Jarvis to paint the mural on the south wall. The centre of the mural shows Our lady with the child Jesus. On the left, benefactors of the original Shrine. On the right are priests with local connections who suffered for the Faith. Two of these were imprisoned in the ancient Toll House at Great Yarmouth, which can still be visited. You will see above this group a dove with an olive branch painted in by the last restorer as a symbol of peace between denominations and religions. On your way back down the church, look up to the choir loft. You will see our 112 year old organ which has 1032 pipes. This was presented to the church by Mrs. Bowen, whose family were publicans in the town’s market place. At the end of the aisle, to the left, there is a fine wood carving of Christ crucified. At the back, a carving of Mary with the crucified Christ. The wooden rails were the original Altar rails which were removed from the front of the church to conform to modern liturgy in 1978. The Exterior of the Church an article written in The Tablet of May 1850 said of the church: ‘The exterior of the new Church is a real gem, considered by archaeologists to be the most successful building if its kind lately erected in England.’ The church is typically East Anglian, with very high quality flint work. Have a close look to see the way the flints are cut (knapped) this is an art that has practically died out. Unfortunately the limestone used in the building has not stood up well to the sea air, and although a great deal of restoration has been carried out, there is a lot left to do. The two heads either side of the Church door are, on the right, Saint Edmund King and Martyr, and on the left, Saint Augustine. Finally to see just how many people have worshipped here, and how bad the old road must have been, look at the wear on the foot scrapers either side of the entrance.

Gorleston on Sea Saint Mary Church NR31 7BZ