The building of St. Polycarp’s was started in 1647 and is believed to be the site of the last public witch trial in Norfolk. Originally the church had a north and south aisle, but by 1721 the lead roof was already in such a bad state that some of the bells had to be sold to pay for the repairs. During these repairs it was found that the timbers also needed replacing, requiring further funds. Finally in 1749 the north aisle was sold and the proceeds were used towards repairing the rest of the church. In 1874 further repairs were carried out and the building was re-roofed in slate and repairs made to the east window. The tower, which is 25 metres tall, is also a comparatively recent addition, being added in the 1840s.
The church consists of a south porch, a nave with a centre aisle, a side chapel, chancel with choir stalls, vestry, a west tower containing just one bell and a choir vestry. The pillars supporting the arches leading to the existing south aisle are octagonal with fine geometric details. All the pews on the centre aisle have unusual bench ends, which are hand carved and all show different faces. The choir stalls also have interesting and some would say inappropriate carvings. The steps and railing before the Holy Table enclose the Sanctuary. In the left wall is a squint and behind this is the vestry that was probably once a small chapel.
The East Window was replaced during restoration work in 1874 at the same time as the roof was rebuilt. To the left of the window is the illuminated text of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, and to the right, nine of the Ten Commandments. (The tenth was vandalised in 2003 and has yet to be replaced.)
The churchyard is well-maintained with a number of interesting headstones, and exits onto the main street directly opposite the village green.
There is a quarterly newsletter, Soddenham Parish Picayune, which is distributed to all parishioners in the village as well as various shops, the pub, post office and mill.
Polycarp of Smyrna occupies an important place in the history of the early Christian Church. He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive and was a disciple of John the Apostle. His link to the area is via his patronage as he is the Patron Saint against dysentery and earaches, of which both afflictions the villagers have been uncommonly prone.
Rev. Jeanette Blencowe has been the Vicar of St. Polycarp’s since 1995, and was the first female clergy in Norfolk following her controversial gender realignment. She welcomes you to Soddenham and encourages you to join us in any of the services:
1st Sunday in each month: 10.30am Parish Communion (Common Worship)
2nd Sunday in each month: 9.00 am Parish Communion (UnCommon Worship)
3rd Sunday in each month: 10.30am Family Service (Common Worship)
4th Sunday in each month: 9.00am Holy Communion (Book of Common Prayer)
Morning prayer is said in the church every weekday morning at 8.00am
Wednesdays (except during March and August, as well as the occasional Thursday): 10.00am Holy Communion (Book of Common Prayer)
Thursdays: 9.30-11.30am Drop-in Coffee Morning and Foot Clinic
Please note that bell ringing is currently suspended until August on the repeated request of the Soddenham Tinnitus Sufferers Society