Things to do in Worstead

St Mary The Virgin

The village of Worstead is dominated by the church of St Mary The Virgin

One of the most magnificent medieval churches in Norfolk, St Mary the Virgin is a testament to the wealth that was brought to the region by the wool trade. The famous Worsted cloth’s name comes from Worstead village, where it was produced for at least five centuries. An influx of Flemish weavers in the 14th century made the village a centre of the wool trade and a major producer of woollen cloth.

Both the interior and exterior are stunning and the late medieval screen (dating from the early 16th century) catches most people’s attention instantly. It is beautifully painted with 16 figures, one of which is a rare depiction of St William of Norwich. The other unusual figure depicted is St Wilgefortis, or Uncumber, a Portuguese princess who took a vow of celibacy and grew a beard in order to keep unwanted suitors away.

Local legends tell of a kindly ‘white lady’ spirit who has healed visitors to the church. Other versions claim that she appears on Christmas Eve, and anyone who sees her will suffer a premature death. Such is the popularity of the legends that the pub just outside the churchyard had its name changed from The New Inn to The White Lady in honour of the church’s resident spirit.

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