|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 Village c. 1924
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
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:
Bressingham, Bylaugh and
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