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 13 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.
Take a 360 degree virtual tour of St Mary's
Listen to St Mary's church bells
Recorded by Chris Richmond. Visit www.churchbellsofnorfolk.weebly.com to find out more about the bells, how this recording was made, how it is being used at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre, and to listen to other church bells in Norfolk.