St Nicholas

Fascinating Norman church with many monuments and treasures connected to Sir Thomas Barnardiston, believed to be the original 'Roundhead'.

About this church

Origins date from 1200AD but there have been many extensions through the centuries. Grade I listed church built mainly from ironstone.

The window at the head of the north aisle and the window on the north wall of the chancel both contain medieval glass with the arms of the Barnardistons, who were lords of the manor of Great Coates in medieval and Stuart times. One of the family, Sir Thomas Barnardiston, has the distinction of being the original Roundhead. Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, heartily despised the parliamentary party, who were contending for the rights of the subject and Parliament against royal authority. She dubbed Sir Thomas 'roundhead', the equivalent of calling someone 'bighead' in modern parlance. The nickname seemed very apt to the Cavaliers and was applied by them to the whole parliamentary party.

The church has two very lovely old brasses in memory of the Barnardistons. One, on the chancel step, dates from 1420 and portrays Isabella, wife or Roger Barnardiston. Notice the beautiful lines of the head and draperies and the small dog at her feet with bells around its collar.The other brass, in front of the altar dates from 1500. The central device portrays Our Lord rising from a western style tomb, with sleeping Roman solders all around. On either side are Thomas and Lady Barnardiston with their seven sons, including a priest, and eight daughters, including a nun. Latin prayers are seen issuing from their mouths in the style of a modern cartoon.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access throughout
  • On street parking at church
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

Other nearby churches

St Michael

There is evidence that a church existed here in the 12th century, it was however greatly extended in 1915 hence it has two distinct side by side buildings.

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