There are more than 100 ruined churches in Norfolk, but few of them are as impressive or as interesting as the remains of St. James at Bawsey. A familiar sight to motorists using the bypass to the east of King’s Lynn, the ‘Bawsey Ruins’ are all that’s left of a thriving village that had been abandoned as early as the 16th century.
A thousand years ago, Bawsey was Norfolk’s equivalent of St. Michael’s Mount. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book (its name ultimately derives from the Old English for “gadfly island”) and was home to a prosperous tile industry - and a church had existed on the site since the 12th century.
Thanks to receding waters and greedy landowners, the church of St. James was already disused in 1517, and all that’s left today is the bisected tower and some fascinating side walls.
That’s not to say the church has been totally left to the ravages of time. The Grade I listed structure still hosts an annual Harvest Festival service, and it came to the nation’s attention in March 1999 when it was visited by Channel 4’s Time Team - who unearthed a fascinating 14th century tile inscribed with the word SAMOHT, which lovers of crosswords will recognise as ‘Thomas’ spelled backwards.