Great Yarmouth Minster (The Minster Church of St Nicholas)

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The Minster Church of St Nicholas, Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth Minster
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Modern Liberal Catholic
Founded 1101
Founder(s) Herbert de Losinga
Dedication St Nicholas
Consecrated 1119
Parish Great Yarmouth
Diocese Norwich
Province Canterbury
Rector The Rev'd Canon Chris Terry
Curate(s) The Rev'd Grant Bolton=Debbage
Organist/Director of music John Stephens

The Minster Church of St Nicholas in Great Yarmouth is the largest parish church in England by floor-surface area.[1] It was founded in 1101 by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich,[2] and consecrated in 1119. It is cruciform, with a central tower, which may preserve a part of the original structure, although the form of the church has been changed by a number of alterations. The width of the nave is 26 feet (7.9 m), and the total length of the church is 236 feet (72 m). The church is the parish church of Great Yarmouth.

The church was designated as a Minster Church in December 2011 by the Bishop of Norwich. The church is not only used for religious services but is a hub for various other events, including choir shows, exhibitions and, during festivals and fayres, the church opens up to allow stalls and traders inside.

The building[edit]

The building itself is located in the central area of Great Yarmouth, close to the house of Anna Sewell and is possibly the oldest building in the town.[2] The Transitional clerestoried nave, with columns alternately octagonal and circular, was rebuilt in the reign of King John. A portion of the chancel is of the same date. About fifty years later the aisles were widened, so the nave is now the narrowest part of the building. There are two main areas of graveyard: one is the old yard, which is located directly behind the church, and one in the new yard, which stretches for about half a mile to the north.

Priory school[edit]

Within the confines of the churchyard is the Priory school building. The school, now known as Priory Primary School, is now located in the town centre. The former school building, now called the Priory Centre, contains a café, support centre and information point.


Early history[edit]

A grand west front with towers and pinnacles was constructed between 1330 and 1338, but the building was interrupted by a plague. In the 16th century the ornamental brasses were cast into weights and the gravestones cut into grindstones. Within the church there were at one time 18 chapels, maintained by guilds or private families, but these were demolished by the Reformers, who sold the valuable utensils of the building and spent the money in widening the channel of the harbour.

Split church[edit]

During the Commonwealth the Independents appropriated the chancel, the Presbyterians the north aisle, and the Churchmen were allowed the remainder of the building. The brick walls erected at this time to separate the different portions of the building remained until 1847. In 1864 the tower was restored, and the east end of the chancel rebuilt; between 1869 and 1870 the south aisle was rebuilt; and in 1884 the south transept, the west end of the nave and the north aisle underwent restoration.

Recent history[edit]

St Nicholas was bombed and nearly destroyed by fire during the Second World War. It was rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1961. During its reconstruction, the church temporarily used the building of St Peter's Church on St Peter's Road. When St Nicholas re-opened, St Peter's began to decline until the 1960s, when it was taken over for use by the growing Greek community, and in 1981 became St Spiridon's Greek Orthodox Church.

On 2 October 2011, it was announced by the Lord Bishop of Norwich Graham James that St. Nicholas was to be raised in status to a Minster Church. This event took place on 9 December 2011 during the town's Civic Carol Service and the church is now know as the Minster Church of St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth.

0n 13th October 2014 a memorial stone was unveiled to commemorate the 1981 Bristow Helicopters Westland Wessex crash, which resulted in the deaths of thirteen people.[3]


The organ was obtained from St Mary the Boltons, West Brompton in 1960 to replace the organ destroyed in the bombing during the Second World War.

A specification of the current organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.

List of organists[edit]

List of assistant organists[edit]

  • Constance Mary Hinds 1929 – 1940[7]
  • Christopher Andrew Angwin 1964 - 1966[8]
  • Peter Seaman
  • Paul Winston 1986 – 1990
  • John Stephens 1999 – 2001

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Buildings of England, Norfolk: Norwich and North-east. Nikolaus Pevsner
  2. ^ a b Church website, retrieved 5 March 2010
  3. ^ Memorial stone is unveiled to commemorate helicopter tragedy that ended the life of eight people from Norfolk
  4. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Handel. Donald Burrows
  5. ^ Dictionary of Organs and Organists. First Edition. 1912, p.284
  6. ^ Who's Who in Music. Shaw Publishing. 1937
  7. ^ Who's Who in Music. Shaw Publishing Ltd. 1949–50.
  8. ^ Musicians of the millennium: a biographical guide to members of the Worship Company of Musicians. The Worshipful Company of Musician

Davies, Paul P. The Parish Church of St Nicolas Great Yarmouth. Great Yarmouth. p. 222. 
Davies, Paul P. The Priory and Parish Church of St Nicolas Great Yarmouth. A Historical Guide.. Great Yarmouth. p. 48. 

Coordinates: 52°36′41″N 1°43′38″E / 52.6114°N 1.7273°E / 52.6114; 1.7273