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St. Mary's Church, Hickling

The village of Hickling is thought to have had its origins in the fifth century AD. St Mary's was built in the late 14th century. It probably stands on the same site as an earlier church. Bits of this earlier building have been reused within the present structure. We are not sure when the first church was built here. However, there was certainly a church on this site at the Norman Conquest. It is recorded in the Domesday Book, 1086, and was probably of considerable age at that time.

In the 13th century the Augustinian Canons of Hickling Priory, (which had been founded in 1185), began building the present church, of stone and knapped flint. It served what by then seems to have been a village of some importance since it supported a weekly market, granted by King John to the Priory in 1204.

The Church was originally dedicated to All Saints. At the Dissolution of the Priory, in 1536, the church took the dedication to St. Mary, which continues to this day. The extent and shape of the building is probably much as it was at the Dissolution, but at about that time the chancel was reduced in length - apparently due to the collapse of the east end - and the earlier dimensions are indicated by the height of the ground outside. The church was heavily restored in 1875, and the immediate effect of the interior - plain, even austere - is as much the result of that as of the medieval builders. Before this restoration there was an oak screen, a gallery at the west end, box pews and a three-decker pulpit.

The church is an imposing building with five bays in the nave and with a square embattlement tower, ninety-five feet high, housing five bells.

The five bells were overhauled by the Whitechapel Road Foundry, London in 1938 and although it was understood that they were rung in 1945 to celebrate the end of World War II, on the advice of the architect the bells were not rung before the tower was strengthened.  The work was carried out in September 1989 and the peal of bells was rung again.

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