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Snettisham (pronounced Snettshum) lies in the north-west corner of Norfolk between Heacham and Ingoldisthorpe. For many centuries the 175ft spire of St. Mary's Church has been used as a 'sea mark' for shipping in The Wash. The steeple was erected by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster the son of Edward III. The village is also characterised by the use of carr-stone as a building material. With the exception of flint, carr-stone is Norfolk's only other workable stone.

St. Mary's Church, Snettisham

St. Mary's Church

In The Shrimp and the Anemone L.P. Hartley fictionalised Snettisham as Frontisham. In the novel Eustace undergoes a religious experience in the church:

'Meanwhile the interstices, the spaces where he was not, began to fill with stained glass. Pictures of saints and angels, red, blue and yellow, pressed against and into him, bruising him, cutting him, spilling their colours over him. The pain was exquisite, but there was rapture in it too. Another twitch, a final wriggle and Eustace felt no more; he was immobilised, turned to stone. High and lifted up, he looked down from the church wall, perfect, pre-eminent, beyond be admired and worshipped by hundreds of visitors.....Eustace of Frontisham, Saint Eustace.'

In 1962  the poet laureate John Betjeman travelled by train from King's Lynn to Hunstanton and made a stop at Snettisham station. He dismounted here and waited for the next train to arrive - while musing about the differences between Wolferton and Snettisham. The entire line was scrapped by Dr Beeching soon after.

Snettisham is also famous for its RSPB reserve - where thousands of waders, duck and geese feed on the mudflats of The Wash. The Wash provides the backdrop for a very moving poem by the Manx poet David Callin.


This is the Wash it seems -
a last exhalation
of the dying land, or something
the sea's been working on
for ages: sketching it in,
rubbing it out,
redoing and redoing it,
never satisfied.

Look at you, all wrapped up,
hat and scarf and
gloves, and those wild eyes
made weak by medication
and hopes confounded so
so many times.
Never this thin before.
Going slowly, in this
flattest part of England,
going slowly downhill.

The birds rise
like a handful of rain
thrown upward,

and the Great Twitcher
in the sky misses
nothing. His fondness
for sparrows is well known.

In 1991 a treasure trove of gold and silver ornaments dating from the 1st century BC was discovered in a farmer's field in Snettisham. Amongst the find was an exquisite collection of gold torcs - manufactured by the Iceni people who once occupied much of East Anglia. The queen of the Iceni, Boudicca, was celebrated in verse by the poet William Cowper in his poem entitled Boadicea, An Ode.


St Mary's Church

More photographs of Snettisham





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