The church is famous for its round tower which for a thousand years has summoned people to Christian worship; it is a thrilling site, but the visitor will also find many other interesting items inside this church.
The round tower has five distinct bands of conglomerate stone alternating with flint bands with the flints laid in layers. Then above the eaves height there are only occasional conglomerate stones among the flints. This conglomerate is particularly associated with Saxon buildings. The four belfry windows were probably cut through the walls of the tower in the 15th Century (Perp) and the ground floor window done at the same time; the battlemented top has small castellations with medieval bricks of the same age as the windows.
On each side of the tower there are fillets including conglomerate stones which join the tower to the nave; this is a Saxon feature. The North West corner of the nave is constructed with carr stones on the quoin.
The Exterior of the Church
The South Porch is early Perp, probably added to the church about, say, 1390, whereas the windows of the South aisle are a little later in the Perp period. You will notice the large sundial between the Perp windows of the clerestory.
The chancel windows were reconstructed early in the 19th Century. A headstop to the West window of the South aisle shows a woman with a headdress hanging in folds.
A blocked doorway on the North side of the Church is particularly interesting; it is in an unusual position, being under the easternmost window of the nave. It could be a Saxon doorway, and the window was added in the Decorated period when the South doorway was made to replace this northern door. So this reminds us that this nave has been in continuous use for worshop since Saxon times.
The entrance to the tower
Once inside, look at the entrance to the tower. The original Saxon doorway is twenty feet up and is crudely constructed with conglomerate stones; its opening is slightly splayed and an old church door is used to fill it. Clearly, a ladder or rope ladder, was needed for access. The tower arch below it was opened up in the Norman period.
There used to be five bells in this tower, but a treble was added in 1957 to make a peel of 6 bells. The oldest is dated 1625 and was made by John Draper. John Taylor and Co of Loughborough have restored and rehung these bells in a steel frame. The turret stairs go anti-clockwise and are Perp.
The South Arcade
The south arcade has double hollow-chamfered arches typical of the 14th Century. Notice that alternate piers are quatrefoil and octagonal; their rough flint bases were probably originally encased to form stone seats before the times of pews.
The entrance to the rood stairs has a good door and is now used as a cupboard. The piscina in the South Aisle has fleurons in lieu of the usual cusping to the trefoil head.
The roof of the south Aisle is lined with plaster which is painted to look like boards with realistic grain and joints. The easternmost portio shows the original arch brace to the roof, with tracery in the spandril and some medieval painting on the woodwork.
The south aisle pews have excellent animals carved on the armrests. They were donated to the church soon after the first world war. The nave pews came from All Saints' Church in King's Lynn. The ancient coffin lid, which is badly mutilated, was found under the floor here.
The choir stalls contain some excellent panels of decorative wood carving, which have been reassembled in new frames.
The font is the showpiece of the church. It was made at the height of the Perpendicular period, c 1430. It is very elaborate and is set on an octagonal base with quatrefoils in panels all round. Fleurons in panels around the stem, curving outwards to the underside of the bowl in richly carved vaulted niches, culminating on the outside with tall canopies. A member of the Herring family once moved to Cromer and had this font copied for Cromer church. The font cover was given by Miss Winifryd Hodgkinson in memory of her friend Miss Denys Maude, both of whom worked for the Red Cross in 1914-1918. Likewise, Miss Maude gave the modern rood, which is made by Faithcraft, in memory of Miss Nesta Sewell.
The chancel screen is partly old and has been very carefully restored so that it is difficult to spot the new parts. The parclose screen was given as a thanks offering for the safe return from the first world war of the Rev John Trevelyan's son. His son lived to become a priest himself and served until a great age.
The chancel roof corbels are embellished by angels holding shields which are relevent to the great history of the church.
The medieval wall painting on the window reveal above the pulpit is of St Christopher carrying the infant Christ on his shoulder. The blue garment of the child and his gold nimbus or halo show best.
Two ancient iron hooks on the north wall of the nave were there to hold funeral helmets, and later they served to suspend parafin lamps.
The fine, two manuel organ was made by Normal Beard in around 1898 and used to be in the chancel, but about fifty years ago it was moved and mounted on a special organ loft above the north door of the nave.
Johnson and Cowper
The chancel contains a memorial to the Rev. John Johnson, known as "Johnnie", who was rector at Yaxham for 36 years and died in 1833. It states that he was "the beloved kinsman and tried friend of the poet Cowper". William Cowper was the author of many great hymns including "God moves in a mysterious way...", and "O for a closer walk with God". But he suffered from spells of melancholy, through which he was supported by Johnnie. Cowper died in Johnnie's Dereham home in 1800 and thereafter the Johnson family were named "Cowper Johnson", as can be seen in the plaque on the opposite side of the chancel.
The East window has stained glass in memory of the Rev. John Johnson, 1833. It is of poor quality and during the war it was painted all over for blackouts. The chancel SW window also contains glazing of the same period for other relations of the Cowper Johnson fammily, namely Donne 1843 and Hewitt 1820. The church contains a great collection of glazing from the early 19th Century before the art had developed great skill.
The West window of the South aisle near the entrance contains the Church's old medieval glass, carefully restored and assembled together.