St. Stephen’s Church has a long and rich history within the city of Norwich.
There are no known documents which date the first church on this site. It is thought that a church may have existed from Saxon times (the church, if it existed is likely to have been a wooden one).
The articles below – written before the structural repairs and restoration in 2009 give some of the history of the church, St. Stephen and the stained glass, the East window was restored during the restoration and re-instated in May 2012.
The Domesday Book of 1086 records at least 25 churches in Norwich before 1066 and there were more churches and chapels established after the Norman Conquest. In 1096 the Cathedral was begun and in 1094 the Bishop’s Seat was established in Norwich.
By C12th Norwich was the most important city in East Anglia. Almost continual building of churches occured within the city throughout the medieval period and the increasing wealth of the city merchants led to periods of church re-building and enlargement.
The new Norman rulers founded the new ‘French Borough’ on the western side of the city (which also included the market place). It is thought that the three churches of ‘Mancroft Ward’ St. Stephen’s, St. Peter Mancroft and St. Giles’ were established to serve this new area. The ‘French Borough’ consisted of French settlers brought in by the Norman rulers to keep order with the Saxon inhabitants who were not over-awed by the huge Norman castle and keep built in the middle of the city. A church was built on the site of the present St. Peter Mancroft. If St. Stephen’s existed a better building may have been erected on the site.
For over 800 years Christian worship has been offered here – a “priest of St. Stephen’s” had some pastoral care of the Castle’s inhabitants.
Early historical mention of St. Stephen’s appears in a charter of Henry 2nd (who reigned 1154-89) addressed to Bishop Wm. Turbe, giving posession of the funds of the church to the Cathedral Priory. In 1205 a charter of Bishop John de Grey ‘appropriated the church to the office of the Chamberlain of the Priory’ for the clothing of the monks. By 1304 a charter of Bishop John Salmon ‘ordained’ the church as a vicarage.
Around 1350 St. Stephen’s was built as a stone and flint church. The base of the tower and part of the walls date from this period. To put this in context, between 1280 – 1345 the City Walls were built and Mother Julian of Norwich’s writings, ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ date from 1372.
The building we now see was restored and largely rebuilt in C16th – its exterior dimensions and interior fittings of fine memorials are testimony to wealthy and generous parishioners who lived in this part of Norwich.