All Saints’ Waterden, or more simply Waterden, is the other church in South Creake parish. It is an Anglican church possibly of Anglo-Saxon origin, certainly with Norman elements and is, as ruins at the west end of the nave and the lost south aisle indicate, the remains of a larger building. The north and south doorways are both Norman and two small double splayed windows are described in Pevsner as “decidedly Anglo-Saxon”. The north and south windows are early English and there is a simple plain font. The building is listed Grade II* (1077758). The church is always open.
The nave is furnished with grained box pews and there are Commandment Boards on the chancel arch. The present roofs are apparently of 1895 and the nave and porch roofs were relaid in 1992. The chancel roof was repaired in 2006 and the pews and pew platform in 2012.
The church is extremely isolated even in the very rural context of Norfolk churches: the village of Waterden disappeared in late mediaeval times leaving the building alone in the fields accompanied only by its Rectory (now the Old Rectory) and Waterden Farm a quarter of a mile distant. St Edmund’s Egmere, which also lost its village in mediaeval times and lies just a mile and a quarter away from Waterden, is a total ruin.
All Saints’ Barmer, five miles distant in the same benefice as Waterden and nearly as remote, is redundant and in the care of the Norfolk Churches Trust. Clearly Waterden has extraordinary powers of endurance which it is our duty to nurture.
The architectural form and use of this ancient church have changed much over the centuries. As already mentioned the south aisle was lost and the nave originally extended further to the west and there is ample evidence for many other alterations to the structure over the centuries.
As a church with a very small actual community, Waterden has long had an uncertain status. The last Rector of Waterden left, or died, in 1955 but even before then it was attached in turn to various different incumbencies including Egmere and Holkham, East Barsham, Sculthorpe, and then North Creake. Some time after the church was attached to North Creake in the 1950’s, it fell into disrepair and neglect although never declared redundant. Saved and restored in the early 1970’s by the efforts of Lady Harrod, who went on to found the Norfolk Churches Trust, the church finally came into the care of South Creake PCC in 1984.
The efforts of South Creake PCC and the Norfolk Churches Trust and its volunteers plus financial support from the Holkham Estate have kept the church in generally sound structural condition but, lacking gutters and downpipes, it is now suffering from damp. The nave roof and the porch are also in urgent need of attention and much of the external stonework and brickwork requires repointing. Consequently the church will, with effect from October 2018, be appearing on Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register. The PCC is urgently addressing these issue and, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has embarked on a major restoration project. Read more about that here.
Evensong is celebrated at Waterden from April (once the light is good enough as the church has no electricity) through to, and including, September. Its patronal festival is celebrated with a eucharist on All Saints' Day. A Christmas Service of Lessons and Carols by Candlelight takes place on Christmas Eve at 4.00 pm. The church is filled to overflowing for this popular event.
How to find All Saints' Waterden
The church is 100 yards off Waterden Lane down a grass track partly hidden by trees. It's exactly a mile down the lane from both the B1105 Fakenham - Wells road and the B1355 Fakenham - Burnham Market road. Parking is on verge in the lane. The Old Rectory is easily visible from the lane so, if you can see that, you are close.