St Mary's was a grand aisleless cruciform church in the 12thc. Much of the surviving building dates from the 14c and 15c, including the present aisled nave and both transepts, but the lower stage of the central tower is Romanesque, as are the four arches of the crossing, complete with their carved capitals and supports. Above the W crossing arch, on the W face of the central tower - which is also the internal E wall of the nave - there are two decorated Romanesque round-headed openings, one above the other, on slightly different axes. They light the two-storeyed wall passage running around the tower, and also look down into the nave. The openings now serve the bell chamber above the crossing.
The unaisled Romanesque chancel had been replaced by 1405 by an aisled structure, which was itself demolished in 1541. The massive timber Rood Screen of c. 1480s extends across the full width of the nave and aisles. Important wall-painting associated with the screen partly survives in the nave, above the W arch of the tower.
Attleborough, in the Hundred of Shropham, was held by Thorold before the Norman Conquest and by Roger, son of Rainard, at the time of the Domesday survey. By 1405, the E arm of the church had been demolished and rebuilt, accommodating the college of priests established by the Mortimer family to serve a chantry chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross. In 1541, following the abolition of the English monasteries, this quasi-monastic arrangement led to the demolition of the chancel which, it was claimed, had been appropriated by the college.
R. Bond, The Bell Frame at St Mary's Church, Attleborough, Norfolk: An historical analysis. English Heritage Reports and Papers B/014/2004.
P Brown, ed, Domesday Book. Norfolk, 2 vols, London and Chichester 1984
English Heritage Listed Building number 1342445
J. A. Franklin, ‘The Romanesque Sculpture of Norwich and Norfolk: The City and its Hinterland – Some Observations,’ in Norwich. Medieval and Early Modern Art, Architecture and Archaeology, British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions vol.38 2015, 135 -161, 151, 152.
N. Pevsner and Bill Wilson: The Buildings of England: Norfolk 2, Harmondsworth 1962, repr. 2000, 185-7
M. Thurlby in Norwich Cathedral: Church, City & Diocese, 1096-1996, London & Rio Grande, Ohio 1996, eds I. Atherton et al, 153-4.
The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Norfolk. 2 vols, London 1901/1906, vol.2, 90.