St Laurence, Norwich
St Laurence, Norwich

A late 15th-century redundant church in the heart of historic Norwich, boasting a very striking tower that stretches upward 120 feet. Most of the church was built in lovely Perpendicular style in the relatively short span of years between 1460-1472.

Look for the west door, which features fascinating, if somewhat gruesome, carvings of the martyrdom of St Laurence, to whom the church is dedicated.

St Laurence is set on a steep slope and features not one, but two, two-storey porches. It is almost bare inside, and the sense of space is emphasized by the light admitted through rows of large clerestory windows along either side of the nave. The roof is a lovely hammerbeam affair, completed around 1490.

The sanctuary is raised a quite remarkable 12 feet above the level of the nave, partly to allow for a vault beneath, and partly due to a rather peculiar Victorian restoration. If that is odd, what is more peculiar still are the painted panels in the sanctuary.

These are Edwardian, with images of saints and angels obviously drawn from real models, some wearing Edwardian clothes. The result is very much a stylized Edwardian interpretation of religious symbolism that you will probably either love or hate.

About the only historic furnishing that has not been stripped from St Laurence church is the 15th-century font.

St Laurence is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and is open most days. Amazingly, there are no less than five redundant churches on St Benedict's Street, arrayed almost side by side. That is one of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting Norwich if you enjoy medieval architecture; I can't think of anywhere in Britain where you will find so many historic churches located so close together - it certainly makes it easy to visit many at a time!