Study afternoon with Dr Julian Litten at St Cecilia’s, West Bilney

Event Details

  • Date:
  • Categories:




Saturday 19th August 2017,  2.00pm to 4.00pm.

 St Cecilia’s, West Bilney – on the A47 between East Winch and Swaffham – was once a two-cell building of nave and chancel. However, it was never a wealthy parish and, over the years, it lost its 14th-century chancel so that only the Norman nave and the 15th-century tower survives.

In 1699 a prominent parishioner, Elizabeth Freke, financed the re-roofing of the building, but this was more for the sake of her using the church as a mausoleum than evidence of her piety. There was a general restoration of the fabric in 1881 but this did not prevent the north parapet being badly damaged in a gale in 1976. A proposal in 1983 to demolish the tower was resisted and the entire building was subsequently restored under the direction of Neil Birdsall in 1990, as a result of which many of its post-Reformation fixtures and fittings survive.

But are there any Norman architectural features surviving, what was done in the 14th century when the building was extended, and what happened to the stained glass window installed in 1464 by the altar of Our Lady? Furthermore, what is a piscina, a reredos and a housing cloth? Is there any evidence of the former chancel and, of greater importance, who on earth was Elizabeth Freke? These, and many other fascinating architectural conundrums and parish personalities, will be explained by the historian Dr Julian Litten FSA.

So, do come along and indulge yourselves for two hours of discovery as we walk the church and churchyard, unwrapping and unravelling its secrets, ending with a refreshing cup of tea and slice of cake.

Suggested donation of £10 per person payable at the door:  there is no need to book in advance.  If you would like more information, please contact Nell Steele on 01553 840814, email

Please note that there are no toilets at the church.