Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Wordwell Church

Maps

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Maps

All Saints is a redundant church which is a treasure trove of geological as well as archaeological features. It dates back to about 1100, and was partly remodelled in the mid 19th century after a period of dilapidation. Inside, its imaginative Romanesque stone carvings are well worth seeing. Outside, the walls are built with a variety of locally-sourced stone types as well as much local flint.

The church has a Norman core with Victorian additions.

Upon this Rock

The panels above the north and south doors have spectacular carvings of mythic scenes. They are made from Jurassic oolitic limestone imported from quarries in the East Midlands such as Barnack (near Peterborough) and Ketton (Rutland), presumably by boat along Fenland waterways and the River Lark. The Norman chancel arch was also made of this material. Finer-grained Caen limestone was used for the mid 19th century pulpit and reredos in High Gothic style.

Upon this Rock

Tympanum over the south door.

Upon this Rock

Mid-Victorian use of Caen stone.

The north wall is a good example of Norman rubble building work, in typical horizontal courses. The majority of the stone is locally-sourced flint with a white skin or cortex, as found when fresh from its native Chalk, but you can also see a variety of exotic stone types, whether ‘erratics’ transported to this area by natural forces (rivers, ice sheets) or rocks imported by human activity – or a combination of both. They are all bound together with lime mortar made from chalk 'burnt' in local kilns. As an inspection of grave mounds in the churchyard will show, chalk bedrock lies close to the surface here. In the 19th century, a chalk pit and kiln were located only 500 m (546 yds) away to the south-east at Limekiln Plantation.

Norman rubble coursing.

The west end and bell-cote were remodelled in Victorian Gothic style by the architect S.S. Teulon in 1868. His use of rounded cobbles contrasts with the rougher flintwork in the rest of the church.

Exotic Rock

Examples of exotics include

 

  • Purple and brown Bunter quartzite, originally from the Midlands
  • Jurassic limestones and mudstones from the East Midlands
  • Lumps of Chalk clunch, probably from Burwell in Cambridgeshire
  • Lava imported from Niedermendig in the Rhineland
  • The volcanic rock andesite, probably from North Wales

 

Exotic Rock

A fossil sponge Exanthesis flexuosa in flint.

Exotic Rock

A liver-coloured Bunter quartzite.

Exotic Rock

An example of Jurassic mudstone.

A broken quern stone made from Niedermendig lava

A lump of andesite, near the north-east corner

Visiting Wordwell Church

The church is marked on Ordnance Survey Explorer map no.229 ‘Thetford Forest in The Brecks’ (c.TL 828 720). It is kept open April– October, otherwise the key is locally available - [more information]. Please note parking is severely limited beside the B1106 – it is safest to pull up onto the verge, or park elsewhere and walk along local footpaths.

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