Hales St Margaret's church
Hales St Margaret's church

St Margaret's church at Hales is one of the most complete Norman churches in Norfolk, a county reknowned for its superb early medieval churches. Indeed, Hales seems like it has been lost in a time warp since the 12th century.  The church is composed of a simple nave leading to a rounded apse. Both of these are thatched. At the west end stands a round tower, so common in Norfolk churches (124 churches in Norfolk have round towers according to Wikipaedia).

The Norman north doorway is superb; it is composed of a remarkable 6 orders, and is beautifully carved. Another wonderful Norman door, though less richly carved, stands in the south wall. The interior features some quite complete medieval wall paintings, including those of St Christopher and St James, idenntifiable by his pilgrim's staff.

The figure of St James, the patron saint of pilgrims, sugests that Hales was a stop on the route of pilgrims on their way to the shrine at Little Walsingham. Above the chancel arch are figures of two angels which may be part of a 'Doom' painting.

The chancel arch is richly carved, as are the column capitals. A painted foliated border runs around part of the chancel. One of the most modern features of the church is the font, a comparative youngster at only 5 centuries old. The font is octagonal, supported by angels, and carved with Tudor roses about the bowl. At the base of the font stand eight carved lions.

Wall painting of St James, patron saint of pilgrims
Wall painting of St James, patron saint of pilgrims

Hales church is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  Nearby is another excellent Norman church at Heckingham (also in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust). The church is located just off the A146 road between Norwich and Beccles. If you enjoy historic churches, don't miss Hales.