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Approaching the church from Lynn Road you pass through the lychgate, the War Memorial to the twenty men of Gayton who died in the Great War, and a further three who gave their lives in the Second World War. It is usual for War Memorials to take the form of a stone obelisk or cross and it is rare to find one such as ours.
St Nicholas's Church, Gayton. Robert Ladbrooke c1831.
The date of the foundation of the church is not known, but according to the Rev. Charles Parkin (1689 – 1765), Rector of Oxborough, a Norfolk Historian of note, Hugh was Rector of Gayton during the reign of King Henry III (1216 – 1272). It is probable that the present church post-dates that time as the style of architecture is mainly“Decorated” rather than “Early English” and relates to the early 14th Century.The outside walls are made with natural flints set in lime mortar.
The Tower is remarkable for being so high without buttresses and for its unusual Dome and four Evangelists rather than the more usual pinnacles.
The unusual domed top to the tower is a special feature of Gayton church tower which shows well from the roads approaching the village. On the four corners are the emblems of the evangelists, now much weathered. They are the winged man for St Matthew, a lion for St Mark, an ox for St Luke and an eagle for St John.
On the east face of the tower can be seen the line of a former roof of the nave, which was thatched.
Lower down, inside the nave, yet another roof line is to be found, one that matches a much lower tower to which the buttresses belong. Clearly the extra belfry was added to the tower when the church was enlarged with aisles and clerestory.
The lower belfry openings are simple Y tracery typical of around 1300 whilst the upper belfry has openings of the distinctive Decorated Period 1320 – 1350.Two bells survive from an original five, one dated 1623, the other 1663. The nave pews were installed in 1849 and those in the south aisle a little earlier. In 1842,Alexander Simpson donated the east and west windows and in 1852, the clock, which is in good working order to this day.
Nicholas Church at Gayton has stood at the centre of the village since the 13th century and is very much a part of village life. It is currently seeing a revival as, thanks to help from the Heritage Lottery Fund,the church building has been renovated in 2011 and is now well on the way to be a place for the community. Read more here.