The Church of St Mary the Less is listed Grade II* and dates from the 12th century with numerous later alterations and additions. The last Anglican service was held there in the 1970's and by 1987 it was empty and declared redundant. Several plans for a new use were proposed over the years but none materialised and it suffered vandalism, fire and smashed stained glass windows. On Historic Englands list of buildings at risk, by 2014 it had become appallingly derelict and was purchased by Freeman Historic Properties Ltd. with a plan to repair the structure and convert to 5 houses. Now that the repairs and conservation have been completed and the structure made safe it is hoped that a new owner will continue the project into the next phase of St Mary's future. Dr Jennifer Freeman will be our guide to the interior and the complex structural repairs to the 15c tower and stair turret which took place under the direction of Oliver Caroe Architecture Ltd.
We will then visit the Catholic church of St Mary which is only a short walk away. Something of a contrast to St Mary the Less it was built in 1826 from cut flint and gualt brick, three years before Catholic Emancipation and it is the oldest freestanding Catholic Church still in use in East Anglia. Also listed grade II* it was designed in the simple nonconformist style of the time and retains many original internal fittings. Fr. Peter Leeming has kindly offered to guide us through its history.
Members will be welcome to meet afterwards in the Chase Pub opposite (booking not required)
Those not familiar with Thetford may want to visit some of the town's other historic sites under their own steam which include the Ancient House Museum, other churches, remains of the Priory and The dad's Army Museum.
Thetford is easily accessible by train and St Mary the Less is about a 10/15 min walk from the station
As long as there is space on the event, we usually allow you to book for both yourself and a guest. When completing the booking form, you will be asked to select the number of people and put in your own details on the first page, then to put in your second person's details on the next page. The event fee shown on each of these pages is for the individual person - you will be shown the total amount due once you get to the summary page.
About the Fenland & Wash Regional Group
The group was set up by a number of enthusiastic members in 2003 to promote SPAB philosophy amongst homeowners and those who work on old buildings. Our area loosely covers Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and South Lincolnshire, although some events are outside this area.
Booking Terms & Conditions
Accessibility: please contact the Group Organiser before booking to discuss any special access requirements.