History of St Peter & St Paul's


Harling Church, daytimeEast Harling is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and there has been a Church on the site since the 11th century.

The present church was largely rebuilt during the 15th Century and by Anne Harling and her first two husbands Sir William Chamberlain and Sir Robert Wingfield from around 1447-1449.


East Harling Church, daytime

The Church and its distinctive spire can be seen from some distance away, the tower “looks as if it has been telescoped into its base to avoid a thunderstorm. Light a fuse under it and it would rise like a rocket” states Simon Jenkins, author of England’s Thousand Best Churches.

It is capped by the distinctive openwork lantern base from which rises the tall tapering spire of oak covered in lead completed in around 1490. The last embellishments were the stonework and figures around the top of the tower showing the Garter and Badge of Lord John Scrope, Anne Harling’s third husband.


The nave and the hammer beam roof

 When entering the church you see over the main door and in the lower stages of the tower - the tower arch and belfry window - the remains of an earlier church, 150 years older. To this earlier church belongs also the base of the south wall, the Harling tomb in the Lady Chapel, the Lady Chapel screen, the narrower of the two windows, and the doorway in the south wall of the chancel. The font is pre-reformation and possibly remains from the previous church.  It has a 17th Century cover.

 In the North wall by a blocked doorway is a holy water stoop and a plaque listing the Rectors and Patrons of the Church dating from 1283 to the present day.  The Harling family, the Lovell family and the Wright family are amongst the most prominent benefactors.

 From the font, and looking towards the great east window, the visitor sees a fifteenth century perpendicular church almost as it was finished in the 1560’s. A gloriously spacious interior with tall slender pillars, flooded with light from the 18 clerestory windows above which rises the steeply pitched hammer beam roof, rising 45 feet above the floor.

The furnishings are, of course, different, but the building itself is unchanged.

Features of Interest

The Church is rich in medieval treasures and the most notable is the 15th Century stained glass, now mostly contained in the East window, described by David King (historian) as: “The most important collection of 15th century glass by Norwich glass painters outside that city.”

 In summary the window shows on top row the Annunciation, Visitation and Nativity, the next the life of Jesus, the next row the Crucifixion and the bottom the Resurrection and Ascension with two “donor panels” showing on the left Sir Robert Wingfield and on the right Sir William Chamberlain the first and second husbands of Anne Harling.


  Sir William Wingfield   Sir William Chamberlain  
Sir Robert Wingfield
Sir William Chamberlain

Pictures of East Window

Image 1: Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth pregnant with St John the Baptist, detail of 15th century maternity garment laced across the front.
Image 2: Annunciation note dove whispering in Mary’s ear
Image 3: Assumption
Image 4: Nativity


  Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth     Annunciation   Assumption   Nativity
Visitation of Mary

 This notable window has a romantic history: removed for safety in Cromwell's time, it was hidden in the attic of East Harling Hall, the ancient home of the Lovells, then standing to the north of the church. There it remained until they sold the manor to Thomas Wright in 1736, and he restored the glass to the church. It was removed again for safety in the 1939-45 World War, and replaced and re-leaded in 1947

 Further traces of mediaeval glass can be found in the tracery lights of the clerestory windows the north window of St Anne’s Chapel, and in the east window of the Lady Chapel.

 David King’s research has shown that the East Window now contains some of the glazing originally in the main window of the Lady Chapel, then known as the Harling Chapel, and reflects Anne Harling’s devotional religious life in petitioning the Virgin Mary to allow her to conceive children.  The glazing depicted the Life of the Virgin Mary from Annunciation to Pentecost.. The East Window originally contained a large representation of the Te Deum, a pictorial depiction of the hymn of praise which included the Holy Trinity, and the Nine orders of Angels. Remnant can be seen in the panels of fragments shown at each end of the second row.



 EH TombThe great tomb in the north wall is that of Anne, only child of Sir Robert Harling, and her first husband, Sir William Chamberlain. Lady Anne was herself largely responsible for the rebuilding of the church  

 After Anne’s death the estate passed to the Lovell family who made alterations and additions to the Church to include their own memorials. It is clear that they had to negotiate the difficult and delicate task of inserting their own memorials into a building full of those of the Harling family. Today there are two matching Lovell tombs either side of the high altar in the chancel. That on the north is of Sir Francis Lovell (as he became) and his two wives, Anne and Elizabeth. Anne is the Lady depicted in Holbein’s “Lady with Squirrel” in the National Gallery. He died in 1550.

 Also in the Chancel are two sets of three miserere stalls with animals carved on the arms.  Lift the seats and you will find the badges and armorial coats of arms of the Harling, and Wingfield families and others.

Lady Chapel or Harling Chapel

 East Harling Lady ChapelThe Lady Chapel contains the tomb of Sir Robert Harling, who died in 1435. There was an inscription placed around the tomb now lost, but a translation, in itself an antique, hangs on the tomb.  Produced by the Reverend D. A. Powell in 1815 it reads:

“A man noble in feat of arms. His family flourished well known (sic) among many of its natives of France - at length mangled by force of arms, He died at Paris. He fell in the year one thousand four hundred and thirty five on the feast of Gregory" - i.e., 9th September 1435

 On top are two figures, which do not belong there.  They are of a knight and a lady. The former is Anne Harling’s grandfather, Sir John Harling, who died in about 1392 identified by the Harling Unicorn on his chest. It has been suggested that the female figure, who bears no heraldry, was Anne Harling’s grandmother, Cecily Mortimer.

 The chapel also contains the colourful tomb of Sir Thomas Lovell and his wife Dame Alice. He died in 1604. Their effigies rest on the tomb under a glorious canopy faced by three columns. At their feet are their crests, a bundle of peacock feathers and a Saracens head held by two

 Over the tomb hangs a helmet which looks identical to that on which Sir Thomas’s head is resting. It was stolen from the church for a private collection, which was later sold. It was identified by the British Museum and returned.

 In the floor of the Lady Chapel can be seen some of the later memorial slabs of the Wright family.

 The Lady chapel is surrounded by a screen part of which was believed to be a rederos from another building and incorporated here and forms the entrance to the Chapel from the South Isle. It is clearly identified with several Harling unicorn badges and still retains some of its original colouring. The second screen separates the nave from the chapel and is a part of a parclose screen also beautifully carved and decorated.

 The Dado or base part of the screen can be seen at the back of the church. It originally separated the Nave from the Chanel and was moved in 1973.

 On the North side of the Chancel are two chapels, also built by Anne Harling dedicated to our Lord Jesus and St Anne the mother of  the Virgin Mary.  The Great Tomb of Anne Harling and her first husband separates the chapels from the main Chancel.


 East Harling TowerThe tower, which was ready for bells to be hung in 1466, is crowned by a 15th century spire of lead covered oak. In 1522, when an inventory of the church goods was made, there were three bells.

 The smallest bell was given by the executors of Robert Pyrle, who died in 1519, leaving 9 acres of land to be sold, and the proceeds to be used to make a treble bell. This bell is probably the present tenor which weighs about 9cwt.

 There are now eight bells. A new steel and cast iron frame replaced the old timber frame in 1912 when Taylors of Loughborough rehung the back six bells.

 The octave was completed in 1992 when the treble and second bells were removed from the redundant church of St. John the Sepulchre in Norwich to East Harling.

 The details of the bells are as follows:


Cwt / Qr / lb






3 / 1 / 14




Mears & Stainbank, Founders, London, 1908






Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam








3 / 2 / 8




Mears & Stainbank, Founders, London, 1908






Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam








2 / 3 / 23




Thomas Gardiner Fecit 1746








3 / 1 / 17




Thomas Gardiner Fecit 1746








4 / 2 / 22




Christopher Graye made me 1677








5 / 2 / 24




John Darbie made me 1677






(Recast by John Taylor & Co. 1912)








7 / 1 / 0




John Draper made me 1616






Thomas Porter of Wilbie toune gave me to make a pleasant sound






(Recast by John Taylor & Co. 1912)








8 / 3 / 22




An ‘Alphabet’ bell from Norwich Foundry c. 1550






This bell is referred to as an alphabet bell because at that time religious inscriptions were considered unacceptable and so the foundry placed letters on the bell to show that they could do lettering if required).


39 / 3 / 18





 Bell 8 is referred to as an alphabet bell because at that time religious inscriptions were considered unacceptable and so the foundry placed letters on the bell to show that they could do lettering if required).  According to an inventory of 1522 there were then 3 bells in the tower. Robert Pyrle, who died in 1519, left 9 acres of land to be sold to pay for the treble bell which is probably the present tenor.

 The old ring of six was rehung in a new steel and cast iron frame by Taylors of Loughborough in 1912.  In 1992 the two trebles were removed from St. John de Sepulchre in Norwich to East Harling.

 The clock is dated 1826 and came from the now demolished West Harling Hall.(may be add in click through here to details of clock and pictures)


 East Harling OrganThe organ, built in 1854 by Joseph William Walker, was originally in the church of St James, Hatcham, New Cross, London, which became redundant. It was brought to East Harling in 1981, to replace a small single manual instrument which after rebuilding was installed in Binham Priory, Norfolk.

 The Walker organ, which has two manuals and originally had 21 stops, was installed by D. J. Miller, organ builder of Orwell, Cambridgeshire, in 1982. Further work completed in 1996 included electrifying the swell action, separating the swell reeds to create a floating division, adding additional pipework on all three divisions, and a 3-rank digital synthesiser adding 32' stops to the pedal division, leaving the organ with a total of 34 speaking stops.  The specification can be found at www.npor.org.uk

 There was no organ case to salvage from Hatcham, and the present fine case was designed by local architectural designer, Charles Morris FRICS, a member of this church, who explains that the painted finish was chosen to blend more softly with the surrounding stonework. The geometry of the nave facade was carefully devised so as to reflect but not counteract with the stone arcading.

 The two 'arms' might be said to signify the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross with the central opening the crown of His head. It is proposed to place trumpet pipes en chamade within this opening, which will represent repectively the Voice of God and the Light of Life. The interlaced decoration unfolds, as might a fugue, starting with a circle and .developing into entwined hearts which repeat at the base where the single form in the fish - the earliest Christian symbol.

Listen to the organ by clicking on the following link - mp3 recording needed: Nun danket alle Gott, Op.65 - Karg-Elert (played by Tom Hilton on the organ of East Harling Parish Church, July 2010)


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