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Belaugh (pronounced 'Beeler') is a fascinating little village which lies on the River Bure between Coltishall and Wroxham. A narrow, steeply sloping lane leads up from the river to St Peter's church which stands on a hill overlooking the surrounding Broadland.

Belaugh 1924

Belaugh Village c. 1924

Belaugh Church

Belaugh Church

This church has a special significance because it provided the inspiration for John Betjeman's life-long interest in church crawling. He first encountered it as a boy when he came to Norfolk for family holidays.

'I was eight or nine years old when I used to come here to the Norfolk Broads on the River Bure, sailing and rowing with my father. And I think it was the outline of that church tower of Belaugh against the sky that gave me a passion for churches so that every church I've past since I've wanted to stop and look in.'

This quote is, in fact, the opening lines of Betjeman's script for his 1974 BBC series A Passion for Churches. In the programme he is seen rowing down the river in a dinghy and then disembarking at the church staithe. From here he makes he way up the steep 'Pilgrims' Path' to the church above. His script for the programme sums up the importance of churches in the East Anglian landscape:
What would you be, you wide East Anglian sky,
Without church towers to recognise you by?
What centuries of faith in flint and stone
Wait in this watery landscape,all alone
To antiquaries, 'objects of research';
To the bored tourist 'just another church'.
The varied Norfolk towers could also be
A soothing sight to mariners at sea.

The programme, which was directed by Edward Mirzoeff, was Betjeman's tribute to the Church of England and featured many churches in the Norwich diocese including: Cley, Booton, Bressingham, Bylaugh and Sandringham.

It is also possible that Belaugh inspired the famous third verse of his moving poem Norfolk:

There after supper lit by lantern light
  Warm in the cabin I could lie secure
And hear against the polished sides at night
   The lap lapping of the weedy Bure,
A whispering and watery Norfolk sound
Telling of all the moonlit reeds around.

Originally the church had a lower thatched roof - as depicted in J.B. Ladbrooke's lithograph of 1822. Inside there is a very fine rood screen (for such a small parish) - depicting 12 saints.

More photographs of Belaugh

St. Peter's Church





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