Relics of a Vanished Church
Walking through the shopping streets of Thetford you pass one medieval church and then another one.
There was a time when you could have done that in Diss. You could have left St. Mary’s Church, walked up Pump (now Market) Hill and found another.
Weavers Restaurant, which many will remember as Aldiss and Hastings gents outfitters, is built on the site of the St. Nicholas Chapel.
This was a guild chapel in the 1500s, until such institutions were suppressed by Henry VIII.
The Pulham Pennoyers School still features part of a similar chapel, with Victorian additions.
Opposite where the St. Nicholas Chapel stood you can still see the Tudor House, with its medieval corner post with carvings of the annunciation and nativity. The building was probably the Guildhall for the chapel. Gaze’s, next door, is built on the chapel graveyard.
The guilds acted as a kind of friendly society. You paid them a penny or so a week, partook of their hospitality and made sure that they prayed for you after death.
Such Catholic practices were rendered obsolete by the Reformation. So the chapels were no longer needed and fell into disuse.
We can only imagine what the chapel looked like; but there is a clue spotted by historian Simon Knott.
The nearby Greyhound inn has a Tudor gable on its west side but not to the east. Knott thinks that the gable was the re-used west face of the St. Nicholas Chapel, while the pub’s characterful porch was its re-used door.
The east face of the chapel would have had a window and would not be so useful, so was not retained.
The date of 1580, according to Pevsner, for the building of The Greyhound would be just at the time when parts of the decayed chapel might well have been recycled.