Church History

St Margaret of Antioch may not have been a real person but she is known to the church as the Patron Saint of Women and Nurses, especially those involved with childbirth and the welfare of babies. She is considered a Virgin & Martyr of the 3rd/4th centuries AD. It is said she may have been the daughter of a pagan priest who cast her out because she became a Christian. She caught the eye of the Governor of Antioch but because she was a Christian she would not accept his advances. She was therefore persecuted and tortured.

One legend of her from the Medieval Church relates that the saint, when under persecution, was confronted by Satan in the form of a Dragon which devoured her. The cross she wore grew so large in his mouth that it split open and she emerged unharmed.

In medieval times St Margaret's Felthorpe was one of 58 Norfolk churches dedicated to this saint. The church is basically 14th century, although there is belief that, due to its construction, part of the west wall of the north nave may have belonged to an earlier church. The whole church is covered by sloping tiled roofs which sweep down to cover the nave, aisle, chancel and vestry.

The tower which dates from the 14th century is unusual in that it is wider north-south than it is east-west. It has large diagonal butresses at each corner. The parapet however, with its spikey pinnacles is later. With thick walls, there is little internal floor space and it contains a single bell. The bell was cast in 1634 and bears the mark R.B. It is still rung on occaision today. 

The south aisle was added in the 19th ccentury and its windows, which are all different, were made by reusing the old stones from the south wall. At the same time, piers and arcading were made on the south side to match the medieval piers on the north side, but instead of stone they were constructed in brick and covered with plaster.

The chancel was restored in the 19th century but still has one south-facing window with fine decorated tracery. Much of its walls were re-faced with cut flints. The east window is part of the 19th century restoration work and on the north side of the chancel is a vestry which covers a blocked-up window on the east wall. This was known as the Bilney Chapel, the road which runs past the church is still know as Bilney Lane.

There are three octagonal pillars to each arcade, and near the north west pillar is the victorian font with carved quatrefoils around its bowl and wrought iron scroll-work supporting a cross on top of its cover. The chamber organ has now been moved to the west end of the south aisle leaving space for a childrens' area at the east end.

All the windows were reglazed around 1878 using stained glass to create a colourful but quiet atmosphere inducive to prayer and meditation. The elimination of all clear panes was intended to emphasise the glow of coloured light. The nave windows, set by 'Ward & Hughes' depict the Miracles of Christ. at the same time painted patterns and texts were put around the arches, quoting the Beatitudes, these have since been whitewashed over.

The east window of the chancel portrays three scenes from the life of Christ: the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Angel outside the empty tomb. This is in memory of Colnel Claud  Bouchier who died in 1877, it has his coat of arms in the bottom left and a representation of his Victoria Cross, awarded during the Crimea War, in the bottom right. the other window in the chancel shows the Ascension and is in memory of Major James Bourchier who died in 1886. 

Major Bourchier was responsible for some of the 19th century restoration work, other work having been conducted by Mrs Fellowes earlier in the century. Mrs Lawrence did further restoration work in 1936, it was she that presented the church with the parish bier, which is in the church to this day.