TODAY Flordon Church is both the oldest building in the parish - a treasured piece of history, a thriving Community Centre, and a small but faithful congregation of worshippers renowned for their welcome. Major renovation work this century necessitated a detailed survey for English Heritage and the discovery of all sorts of unknown details about its history from the work on its roof and walls. In 2013, the building was given a face-lift: the plain pine pews were removed, walls redecorated, heating and lighting vastly improved, a discreet but functional kitchen installed at the back and the Victorian vestry adapted to include a disabled toilet. The purchase of comfortable chairs was sponsored by parishioners and people with family links to Flordon subscribing £4,000, and a hearing loop system was funded by Snelling Trust. Once again Flordon has a place where everyone can meet together and events throughout the year testify to a great sense of community spirit.
Below is a brief history of the church building and on other pages there is information on the Rectors and some activities they were involved in; the Rectory in which they lived; a Charity administered by the church, as well as other charity land in the parish.
Evidence from the building itself suggests that there was a church here in Anglo-Saxon times, even though there is no mention of one in the Domesday record for Florenduna. What are believed to be the remains of Saxon foundations and two Saxon windows were discovered in the nave and unblocked during the restoration of 1908.
It seems that this small church, whether Saxon or later, may have been extended during the 12th century when a new chancel was added at the east end. By the end of the 13th century, it had been enlarged several times, with aisles to the north and south and a south transept or chapel. By that time, records show that Flordon was quite a rich village within the Hundred of Humbleyard, but both its population and wealth declined greatly during the 14th century, possibly due to the Black Death.
It may well have been Roger of Northwold (Rector
1329-1372) who ensured that the church was reduced in size and made more
manageable for the remaining villagers to maintain. He may well have been a
resident Rector (unusual for those days) because his Will was written in
Flordon in 1371/2 and signed by three local clergy. He left 100 shillings (a
large sum at that time) for the repairs and/or alterations to the church, and
asked to be buried in the porch. This large and splendid porch seems to have
been built when the south aisle - and possibly the south transept/chapel - were
demolished. The north aisle may have lasted into the 15th century,
to be replaced by a north wall with stairs up to the rood loft. Remains
of the infilled archways can still be seen.
In the early days of the Reformation, inventories were made of all church property. In 1552, Flordon had some silverware, some clergy robes, and two small bells which were hung in openings in the church walls instead of in the tower. 200 years later, the round tower was described as 'decayed' and one bell cracked, and the tower eventually fell down in 1774. This '...very ancient structure built with flintstone' had been shored up for the previous 20 years because of large cracks, 'not withstanding which... the said steeple suddenly and unexpectedly fell to the ground.' The parishioners could not afford to rebuild, so were allowed to sell two of their three bells and build a new strong brick wall at the west end with a cupola for the remaining bell [clearly shown in this lithograph of c.1820].
The church seems to have fallen further into disrepair during the rest of the 18th century - the porch, the walls and buttresses, the roof, the churchyard fences were all in a bad state, and the chancel had 'a bad crack at the South East corner which should be seen as it seems to be in a dangerous state.' The damage may well have been caused by the GAY family vault which is no doubt too deep and too close to this corner. Repairs seem to have been completed by 1801, when it was clearly stated that the Rector was responsible for repairs to the chancel and parsonage, and the parishioners for the church and churchyard fence!
There was some restoration work in Victorian and Edwardian times, but the changes were not as drastic as in some churches. After the Rev G F Whittaker arrived in 1856, the chancel floor was paved, a small vestry built and new pews were (eventually) added. The bell cupola was replaced and the bell hung above the west wall. A plaque below the west window states, 'This window inserted and bell placed over A.D. 1873 G. F. W. Rector'. The chancel was re-tiled again by Rev Isaac Easton (Rector 1886-1923), who also restored the roof and had new false ceilings added in 1908. It was while this work was being done that the builders discovered the Saxon windows and rood stairs.
The last resident Rector of Flordon was Rev W P J Fair, who retired in 1979. Hapton parish had already been joined with Flordon - only to be split again as Flordon was added first to the Tasburgh group of parishes and now to the Mulbarton group. Repair-work on the roof in early 2009 revealed timbers and joints constructed in a way that dates them to the early 13th century - making this one of the oldest existing church roofs in Norfolk. Who knows what further history will be rediscovered as this little church is put to greater use by and for future generations!