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Friday, 5 June 2015

Swaffham Church of St Peter and St Paul

Sue, Alf and I set off from Ely around 11.30am. We stopped in Swaffham for lunch around 1.30. After lunch we headed for the church. 

My paternal grandmother, Ada Duffield, was descended from Jasper James Duffield and Anne Hall who were married in St Peter and St Paul Church Swaffham on 18 April 1780. Anne had been born in Swaffham in January 1755. She was the daughter of Thomas Hall and Mary Durrant, who had been married in Swaffham ini 1753. She was the eldest of their ten children. 

Anne and Jasper, it seems, had only three children, and spent their lives in Swaffham. Jasper lived until he was 72 and was buried in Swaffham on 29 December 1832, their three children were Thomas, Marianne and Jasper. The eldest, Thomas, is my 3x Great Grandfather. He became a farmer in nearby Heacham.

So for the moment, Swaffham is the earliest known location of my Duffield ancestors. Most head stones, however, date from the 19th century. I wanted to see the church in which Anne and Jasper were married and their children baptised. 

It was worth the visit. The current church building dates from 1454-65 when it replaced a previous church that had collapsed. It is built in Barnack stone, brick and flint. The first rector was appointed in the reign of Henry II, (between1133-89).

The loveliest element is the timber ceiling with its 88 Angels carved in chestnut wood - which is resistant to borers. When a restoration was carried out in 1888 a number of lead shot pellets were found embedded in the Angels. One explanation is that Cromwell's men were responsible. The other is that they were used to dislodge nesting birds. As Cromwell's grandmother is buried at the church, the bird theory perhaps has greater credence.
The woodwork throughout the church is lovely
from these women with rosaries on the end of the choir stalls, to details on the pulpit.

The most intriguing are these images of a pedlar and his dog.
These are associated with John Chapman, "the Pedlar of Swaffham",  a real man associated with the legend that he had a dream that if he went to London he would meet a man who would make his fortune. On London Bridge he met a shopkeeper who told him that HE had had a dream that a man called John Chapman from Norfolk would find buried treasure in his back yard. John went home and found the treasure. John was generous to the church - hence the carving.

There are also some tapestry kneelers and a perpendicular window.
The churchyard is peaceful and well-kept - a fitting place for Jasper and Anne to lay in peace.
We reached our holiday cottage in Grimston late in the afternoon and had a pleasant time catching up and unpacking. The cottage is cosy, well appointed and comfortable - a great base for relaxing and exploring. It has good wifi but poor phone reception -so communication this week is best by email.

Information about St Peter and St Paul Swaffam comes from the booklet Swaffham Parish Church, Dereham, 01362 693240.


  1. What a beautiful place. Love the carvings and windows. How lovely to have a personal connection. Vivienne.

  2. So satisfying to find places where your ancesters have been. It's an amazing sense of continuity to know that in this very building, so many centuries ago, my ancesters stood here to be married, worshipped here, kept their wriggling children quiet here. It's a reward for painstaking and time-consuming research.

    1. I agree. It provides a context and connection that is really strengthening.

  3. Great you were able to see this church and the ladies with the rosaries is an interesting facet of the church. Hope your Norfolk visit is interesting, you have good company to relive the Duffield side of the family. A fascinating journey. Jess.

    1. Thanks Jess. We are having a good time - and learning quite a bit.

  4. The 88 angels in the ceiling rafters are definitely my favourites here! What a beautiful idea, and an interesting contrast to Ely, with the wood carvings versus the stone carvings. It is lovely to see it all so well cared for.

    1. Yes - I do like the warmth of the wood. The Angels are great, aren't they?