St Andrew's, Congham
The Church is normally locked but a key is obtainable from : Chris & Liz Sykes,
Contacts: Churchwarden. Mrs Helen Lilley 01485 600153
Congham with a population of about 250 is 7 miles from King’s Lynn. Although so near a town, it is very much a country village, reached through the attractive and wild Roydon Common. The village is split in two with half on the edge of Grimston and the other half three quarters of a mile away around the church and pub.
Although currently a small rural village, Congham was once a settlement of high importance. Extensive evidence for long-term occupation activity spanning the Iron Age to post-medieval period includes a probable Roman villa, and some painted plaster from it is preserved in King's Lynn Museum.
One of the most interesting periods in Congham’s history is the middle Saxon period when the settlement appears to have been one of a small number of ‘rural centres’ or ‘productive sites’. These are thought to have been trade centres with markets or fairs or possibly ecclesiastical centres, trading both locally and internationally.
Although settlement continued into the late Saxon and medieval periods – as attested by the 13th century church of St Andrew – Congham gradually became the small village we see today.
The River Cong is a tributary of the River Babingley. The spring rises in a meadow pool on the Hillington side of Manor Farm, Congham. From there, the river flows through the wood and over a small waterfall, where in the past it powered all the machinery within the Congham Oil Mill, which is now known as Congham Lodge.The mill is said to have been built for processing whales. Whales were transported from King's Lynn docks by horse and wagon. The mill produced oil from whale blubber. The resultant whale bones were then taken by road to Narborough Bone Mill where they were ground into fertiliser. Some of the whale bones remain as ornaments at Congham Lodge to this day. The waterfall that drove the mill still remains. There would have been a horrendous smell especially in the summer, which was why the mill was situated away from King's Lynn itself.
Sir Henry Spelman, the noted 17th-century antiquary, was born in Congham. He is best known for his detailed collections of medieval records, in particular of church councils. His brother Erasmus also lived in Congham, and his son Henry Spelman was an early settler and explorer of Virginia.
Several members of the Spelman family were buried at Congham. In the 18th century two members of the Nelson family were rectors, Edmund Nelson, Lord Nelson's Father's 1st cousin and namesake, who were at Cambridge together, and Nelson's 2nd cousin James Rose Edmund Nelson.
Congham is famous for its World Championship Snail Race held on the third Saturday of July, at the super Summer Fete. You can look up details of past runners and the rules covering the race and the dates for the next championship at www.snailracing.net.
The event was covered by "The Times" newspaper and Japanese TV in 2016. You can read "The Times" report on the next page and there is even a short video.
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