The much loved Church of St Mary the Virgin was built in the
13th century, making the church the oldest building in
the village. It is a true reflection of the village's history
stands very much at the heart of the village.
The church is surrounded by
many buildings made from local chalk, carrstone and
a terracotta brick once manufactured in the
Churches designed like St Mary the Virgin of Heacham,
with a central tower built on the crossing, are a
rarity in Norfolk as buildings designed in this
manner required a strong foundation base using good
strong building stone. Buildings of this
collapsed because of poor
quality local stone. Others were reduced in
height, but St Mary's has survived more than 800
In the photograph (right) you can see how
transepts rising to a great height were designed to
support the tower, but these transepts were not
well maintained over the years resulting in the extraordinary buttress on the
north side being built to support the
tower circa 1800.
The church belfry has circular
openings on each side which appear small in
proportion to the massive tower. This
particular feature of the church indicates its great
age as belfry openings grew in size over time.
A cupola crowns the top and contains the original
12th century bell - regarded as the oldest in East
Glorious Byzantine style brass
lanterns hang from the ceiling identical in design
to those of the Basilica in St Marks Square,
Throughout the church's
life, it has
enjoyed local support and it continues to retain its
place as the hub of the community.
It maintains a very active
congregation and has a busy and varied calendar of
events throughout the year. The Village waits to
welcome a new Vicar in 2007 following the retirement
of Canon Patrick Foreman after 8 years of dedicated
Local legend has it that the Indian
Princess, Pocahontas, worshiped at the church when
John Rolfe returned with his extraordinary wife and
young son, Thomas to England from Virginia.
Although the British Court took Pocahontas to their
hearts, they planned to return to Virginia. Sadly,
Pocahontas became ill and died in Gravesend, Kent
aged 22. Rolfe then returned to his land in
Virginia leaving their son Thomas in England for
his formative years.
Coats of arms of prominent members
of the Rolfe family are located inside the church. A
sculpture of Pocahontas in Jacobean dress by Otillea
Wallace, a pupil of Rodin hangs on the wall above a
plaque dedicated to John Rolfe’s father.