Old St. Margarets Ruin

Restoration Project News updates Ruins now fully open to the Public


Heritage Open Day at the Ruins on Friday 13 September, 2 – 4pm.  The Friends of Old St. Margaret’s will be giving a guided tour and history talk about the Ruin.  Free entry and open to all.  Dogs on leads.  Please note the ground is uneven.  Parking available in nearby roads.

Railings Removed from the Ruin

Metal security railing surrounding the old St. Margaret’s Ruin on Coast Road have been removed, thanks to Hopton’s Borough Councillor Carl Annison, who took the lead in organising a party to carry out the work.

Borough Councillor Andy Grant, Parish Councillors Ian Constable (Chairman), Chris Garratt (Vice-Chairman), with Graham and Alison Mills from the Friends of Old St. Margaret’s and Gary Smith worked together on Monday 18 December 2017 to dismantle the railings. Borough Cllr. Annison also arranged for East Coast Waste to remove the old metal free of charge.

The Church was built between 1189 and 1250. It caught fire in 1865 and was left to perish over the years.  The Parish Council purchased the Ruin from The Church of England Commissioners in 2008 for £1.

The walls of the Ruin were stabilised following a two year project, carried out with funding from Heritage Lottery and other sources of finance. The official opening ceremony took place in April 2017, when the Lord Bishop of Norwich, the Rt. Rev. Graham James, formally unveiled a new information board and commemorative bench.   The security railings were left in place surrounding the Grade II* Listed building, and the Parish Council were in discussion about removing them when  Cllr. Carl Annison stepped in and offered to carry out the work free of charge.

The Parish Council would like to thank Borough Councillor Annison for his initiative and hard work, along with his fellow Councillor Andy Grant, and all those who helped on the day.

More information about the history of the Ruin can be found in a book entitled “Hopton-on-Sea Exploring the Past” available to purchase from the Village Hall at £3.50 each.



NEWS UPDATE:  April 2017

The Village celebrated the two year successful completion of the stabilisation of the walls and tower at an event held on Sunday 23 April 2017.  The Lord Bishop of Norwich, the Rt. Revd. Graham James gave an informative speech and unveiled the new information board at the entrance to the Millennium Garden surrounding the Ruin on Coast Road.  The Mayor and Mayoress of Great Yarmouth attended, Darren Barker, Conservation Officer from GY Preservation Trust also said a few words of thanks, as did Cllr. Colin Sykes, Chairman of Hopton on Sea Parish Council.  In 2008 the Ruin was purchased by the Parish Council from the Church of England for £1.  Thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding, local fundraising, sponsorship and the efforts of volunteers, specialists and others, the Ruins is now stable and secure for future generations to enjoy.   St. Margaret’s church burned down in 1865 and the structure, although a Grade 11* listed building, was on the at risk register.  The project involved Heritage Lottery Funding, English Heritage, the Pilgrim Trust, the Parish Council, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust and many others.  A new bench and plaque, thanking all those involved in the Project, was unveiled by the Lord Bishop and Mayor at the event.  Refreshments were served and tours of the Ruin took place during the afternoon.


Just a little history to give you a flavour of the old ruined church.

There has been a church on the site at Coast Road Hopton-on-Sea since 1087.

There aren’t many records but it’s thought that St. Margaret’s church was built between 1189 and 1250. It was a small church, with the north aisle added some 100 years later.

The Norfolk Records Office in Norwich holds Baptism, Burial and Marriage Records dating from 1673.

A fire broke out in the church on Sunday 8 January 1865 when the stove became overheated and the building was all but demolished.  The church was replaced by the existing church, also called St. Margaret’s, on the Lowestoft Road in Hopton-on-Sea.

The old churchyard was officially closed in 1966 and only parts of the walls and tower remain today. Grave stones were re-sited and the area was left to grass over.  Due to health and safety concerns, Great Yarmouth Borough Council erected a security fence around the ruins.

Much work was carried out by volunteer groups both inside the Ruins and in the gardens over the past ten or more years, removing debris, dead trees and brambles.

In 2008 Hopton-on-Sea Parish Council agreed to purchase the Ruins from the Church of England for £1 with a view to protecting this heritage site for generations to come.   A number of fundraising events have been organised over the years by willing volunteers and this money will be used as match funding when grants are received and to maintain the ruins and gardens in the future.

The gardens surrounding the ruins are today maintained by a group of local volunteers. Awards have been received as part of the Borough’s In Bloom competitions as a testament to the hard work and dedication of these volunteers (the Hopton in Bloom Team followed by the Friends of St. Margarets). The gardens provide a quiet peaceful place to walk or sit and relax.

The Parish Council is now working in partnership with Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust with the aim of stabilising the walls, getting the Grade II* listed building taken off the English Heritage “at risk” Register, removing the security fence and opening up the area for public use.

A Project Plan has been written to consolidate and repair the structure as a safe Ruin at a cost in the region of £140,000.

Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £93,500 in August 2013 and further funding is anticipated from English Heritage and other sources, including some match funding from the Parish Council.

Some preliminary survey work has already been carried out and it’s anticipated that a Project Manager will be appointed shortly, with further surveying and recording work taking place over the winter of 2013, with actual structural work starting between Spring 2014 and Autumn 2015.

The Project will be part of a training initiative, with trainees receiving guidance from the Trust’s network of skilled conservators, to learn traditional building conversation skills such as masonry, flint-knapping and lime-mortaring.  A total of 65 trainees and 80 volunteers will be involved in the course of the two year Project, which will also include a community archaeology dig at the site and a memories project to capture residents’ memories of the building.

Darren Barker, the Project Organiser for Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, who is also Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s principal conversation officer said “We are delighted with this key funding from the HLF.  Hopton Ruined Church is an important part of the history, heritage and culture of Hopton and the Great Yarmouth borough, but has now reached a tipping point where it could be lost for good.  This Project is a chance to consolidate the Ruin as a maintained attractive feature in the village and also provide vital training opportunities in traditional building skills.”

Lenny Gent, Chairman of Hopton-on-Sea Parish Council said “We are delighted that the Project Plan has brought in funding from Heritage Lottery.  The ultimate goal is to stabilise the crumbling walls, get the ruins off the “at risk” Register, take down the security fencing and open up the whole are for members of the public. The Parish Council is working closely with the Trust, and we thank Darren Barker for taking the Project forward.”

September 2013.

St. Margaret’s Ruins Restoration Project gets the go-ahead

The Parish Council and Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust have been given the go-ahead by Heritage Lottery Fund to start the two year restoration project.  This follows a £93,500 grant from the HLF to kick-start the Project, with further funding from English Heritage, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, some match funding from the Parish Council, and other grant sources – all in the pipeline.

Are you interested in learning new skills, such as flint knapping, stone masonry, surveying and recording?  The training is especially aimed at young people considering a future in conservation and heritage, but all volunteers would be welcome.   Anyone interested should contact Darren Barker, Conservation Officer via e-mail  [email protected]  or telephone him or Bridget Heriz-Smith on 01493 846195.

November 2013

Franziska Callaghan (Lead Project Officer) and Rachel Harrison (Project Co-Ordinator) have been appointed to take this project forward and are very much looking forward to working with the local community to deliver the consolidation of this important historic building. The Structural Engineer is now due on site and his report is awaited.

The Project offers a range of exciting training and volunteering opportunities, such as surveying, recording, hands-on conservation, traditional skills, an archaeological dig as well as a village history project.  Please contact Franziska or Rachel if you  are interested in any of the training and volunteering opportunities. Or pick up an application form from Julie, Clerk to the Parish Council, at the Village Hall in Hopton.

February 2014.

On 4th February, a team of professionals undertook a site survey for the structural condition report using a very windy cherry picker! We also had a chance to look at the water spout gargoyle high up on the tower. The Press were in attendance and reported on progress, with a call for trainees and volunteers. This has resulted in a good response and we are hoping to get started very soon. You can also find us now on Facebook and Twitter.  Franziska Callaghan, Lead Project Officer.

Link to Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust website:   http://www.greatyarmouthpreservationtrust.org/en/projects/hopton-st-margarets-ruined-church

Cherry Picker February 2014



Hopton Ruined Church Update  March 2014

Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust has now received a £25k grant from English Heritage to contribute to the overall repair and consolidation costs which is welcome booster to existing grant funds.

We are still awaiting the structural engineer’s report, but we have had feedback that we will be safe to go ahead with the volunteers.

We will be on site with our first volunteers and trainees for Training Module 1 ‘Survey, Specification and Recording’ in the first week of April. During this 4 day programme – which is spread out over 4 weeks – we will look at measured surveys, condition surveys, specification for repair and consolidation as well as recording.

On the 7th and 8th of April, an international visit is expected.  Students from Hiiumaa Restoration College in Estonia will be on site. This is part of the Preservations Trusts international collaboration works.

Franziska Callaghan, Lead Project Officer Hopton Ruined Church Project. Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust.  www.greatyarmouthpreservationtrust.org

April 2014

We had a brilliant start to our first Module, the training in surveying, recording and specifying the conservation work. The sun was shining all day on our volunteers who were busy trying to measure this complex ruined structure. The current module will continue on Thursdays for another 3-4 weeks.

The site is now also ready for other volunteers’ activities such as the practical conservation work. Practical consolidation work is scheduled to begin in May.

Date for your diary:   Heritage Open Days around the Ruins at Old St. Margaret’s Church Friday 12th and Saturday 13th September 2014,  10am to 2pm.  All welcome.

Update on Hopton Ruined Church Project – May 2014

Work has started to consolidate the fragile walls of the two naves using traditional building materials. We have carefully cleared the foot of the walls and have begun to repoint the flint walls in a coarse lime mortar. See pictures.

Call for information – the missing font! We are looking for information regarding the missing font. Any information on the whereabouts or any pictures, photographs or descriptions of it are welcome. The font was still in situ in 1952 and is described as “of a very unusual pattern, curiously sculptured, in some of its panels are the emblems of the passion and trinity… at the base are four lions supporting an octagonal top”.

Also – Local volunteers still wanted. We have a lovely group of volunteers working with us, but we are still hoping to recruit more local volunteers from Hopton. This will not only encourage the feel of ownership, but also train guardians for the future when the ruins will go back into the care of the community. Please do contact us if you are interested in getting involved – see details below.

Rachel Harrison Project Coordinator [email protected]

Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust


Tel. 01493 846195

Find us on Facebook & Twitter @ Great Yarmouth PT

Update: June 2014

Volunteers are now working two days per week on module 2 – to consolidate the fragile walls of the two naves, repointing the flint walls in coarse lime mortar mix and clearing the wall tops.  Module 3 will start soon – researching the village and church history. There will be an open day to share stories and photographs with a view to producing a booklet, and creating interpretation boards for permanent display at the Ruins.  Module 4 – archaeology is planned to start the end of August.

The GYPT will be having a stall at the Summer Fete on 20 July 2014, and there are two Heritage Open Days on 12/13 September 2014 from 10am to 2pm when the Ruins will be open to the public.  GYPT and volunteers have made fantastic job of consolidating the walls so far.

Hopton Ruined Church Project Report – May 2015

By Project Co-ordinator Rachel Harrison 

Much progress has been made on the Hopton Ruined Church Project this last year.  Some of this can be seen visually in the work our Contractors , Volunteers and Trainees have done on the Ruins themselves but there has been other activities which have been running alongside this work in public engagement activities designed to complement the Heritage focus on the village.

Our volunteers have shown great dedication and enthusiasm to see the ruins work progress, to help conserve this important asset to the Village, some of them travelling in from as far as Winterton, South Walsham and Norwich.

In turn the Hopton Ruined Church Project has provided our volunteers a unique training  opportunity in having “hands on” training in surveying and recording, using lime mortar, conservation techniques and traditional building skills.  Some of our volunteers who had worked on other Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust projects have taken their skills further after working with us at Hopton Ruined Church.  Darrien and Jordan who had been studying construction at Great Yarmouth College have now been taken on by Wellington Construction as apprentices.  It has been very rewarding to see the experience of working at Hopton Ruined Church has had in contributing to some positive outcomes for some of the volunteers.  Will and Emma have both been volunteering at Hopton since the start and have both progressed in being trainees with Medieval Masonry Ltd working on the Church Tower.  Medieval Masonrys’, John and Steven Briggs and their team have been very accommodating in providing training which equipped Will and Emma with the necessary skills from which they could be trusted to do some of the work on the tower independently.

We still have some activities planned for later this year to further promote the project and the history of the village but primarily we still have a lot of work to do on the ruins, all of which would not be possible without the ongoing support and determination of our volunteers.

A summary of the year with details of our monthly progress follows:-

Summary of the year March 2014 to May 2015 :-

March 2014- Hopton Ruined Church Project enrolled Franziska Callaghan as the Project Manager and Rachel Harrison as the Project Co-ordinator.  A structural survey was carried out by structural engineer Stuart Armitage to specify what parts of the tower would need attention. 

April  2014 – Work on the nave started on site in April 2014, with our first group of volunteers having training in surveying and recording which they put into action on the ruins.  This was led by Ian Hardy, a trained architect and conservation officer at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, and supported by Rachel Harrison.

May 2014 – Volunteers began the consolidation work, having onsite training on using lime mortar and conservation techniques.  This was led by Franziska Callaghan, who is a trained conservator.

July 2014 – The Hopton Ruined Church Project had a stall at the Hopton Village Fete and Carnival which helped to raise some additional funds for the project, and was a way of raising awareness of the project to hopefully attract some more Hopton based volunteers.

August 2014 –Some of our volunteers were able to visit the archaeological dig which was being investigated at the Cripps Development Site.  PCA Central the Pre-Construct Archaeology team very kindly gave us a tour of the excavation and talked about the finds they have uncovered.

September 2014 – A 3 day archaeological Dig took place within the ruined walls, led by Giles Emery from Norvic Archaeology.  The purpose of the dig was to locate and date the footings of the various building phases within the church.  We also located the steps which lead down to the Sayers Tomb and uncovered the brick vault.  This was a very successful activity and was very well attended by adults and children.  Many visitors also came to watch.

The ruins were open for 2 days of the Heritage Open Days.  Our volunteers helped to tidy the site ready for the open days and some came to assist with guiding visitors around the ruin over the two days.  Over 70 visitors came over the two days and we were very pleased with their positive feedback.

October 2014 – Franziska Callaghan left the project to take up a permanent position at Norwich City Council.

November 2014 – Our volunteers helped to prepare the site for the winter months while no work was going on.

Most of the internal walls were completed and wall tops cleared on the north wall and capping was started.  Vulnerable areas such as the wall tops were covered over to protect from the frost.

The Tower contract was prepared by David Aldridge and was put out for tender resulting in three quotations submitted for comparison.   Medieval Masonry Ltd. subsequently was the chosen contractor to take on the tower repairs.

February 2015 – The Hopton Village History Project was launched at the village hall and was very well attended.  Displays were on show from Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust on the Hopton Ruined Church Project.  Giles Emery brought along a display of what was found during  the Archaeological Dig in 2014 and some childrens archaeology activities.  Brian Howard displayed his photographs and research from the Friends of St. Margarets work on the ruins.  Kate Argyle who is the Engligh Heritage Local Heritage Education Manager for the area showed some work she had been doing with the Primary School on developing some village history activities and also Claire Bradshaw from Norfolk Historic Environment Service.  Although pleased that the event was very well attended we had hoped that the Primary School would have become more involved.  Luckily we did see that at least one pupil come along with his mum during his lunch break to have a go at Giles’ Activities.

From this event a Hopton-on-Sea Village History Group was formed to undertake some research activities to develop into a book about the village.  Our group has met frequently in the village and at Lowestoft Library, Suffolk Archives and are due to attend a behind the scenes tour at the Norfolk Archives to see the conservators at work and also to explore their records.  The Volunteers are mainly from the village but some have joined from the ruins work and some who have family connections to the area.  We have to thank one of our village history volunteers, Chris Garratt and his company Aberdeen based Accord Energy Solutions for their contribution towards this element of the project it is much appreciated.

March 2015 – April 2015 A bat survey was carried out on the tower prior to work commencing and concluded that there was no evidence of bats or even any historical signs of bats being present in the tower.  Pity the same could not be said about pigeons!

Work started on the Tower and the work on the fractured south wall was completed.  Medieval Masonry have carried out the work under the professional guidance of David Aldridge who is a conservation accredited architect, Stuart Armitage, Structural Engineer for the Morton Partnership, Darren Barker, Principal Conservation Officer at Great Yarmouth Borough Council and a director with the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust.

A stone head was found buried in the wall at the top of the tower, which is believed to date from the 11th/ 12th Century which could mean it was reused from the original church or from the ruins of the church at Newton when the tower was added in the 15th Century.  The Stone Head raised some positive publicity for the Hopton Ruined Church and it is yet to be decided where the Stone Head will be homed permanently.

Volunteers also started back on site in March and are continuing with consolidating the nave walls.  This year will be focused on the external walls, gable ends, wall tops and porch.  We have the onsite support of Freddie Van Till who will be providing training in conservation and supervising volunteers.

8 Students from Great Yarmouth College have been doing 4 weeks work experience on site helping to do various tasks such as tidying up materials, collecting together broken gravestones,  repointing flint walls and they have also had the opportunity to watch John Briggs working some stone for the windows of the Tower.

The work on the tower is now drawing to a close and the structural engineer is happy that the tower is in a lot better shape.  The condition of the tower was in a much worse condition than first thought and has required a lot of re-facing and new stone added to ensure its longevity.  John and his team have been a great support to us on site and it has been great to see a surge forward in the progress of the project.

Still yet to come this year, we are again to take part in the Hopton Village Carnival and Fete and also in this years’ Heritage Open Days.  See details below:-

Hopton Ruined Church, Heritage Open Days 2015 –   

Activities planned over the 3 days:-

Friday 11th September 2015 – 10 until 4

Flintknapping Demonstrations and Taster Sessions. John Lord who is a professional flintknapper, will demonstate working with flints in an architectural setting.  John is a flint knapping instructor on Ray Mears’ Primitive Technology & Ancient Skills courses in working flint tools..- see Johns’ website www.flintknapping.co.uk

Saturday 12th September 2015–  10 until 3

Childrens’ Nature Workshop. Emma Purnell will guide children in making a bug hotel for the ruin gardens to encourage wildlife.

Sunday  13th September 2015 – 10 until 3 Childrens’ Archaeology Activity Day

Giles Emery from Norwich based Norvic Archaeology,  will be doing archaeologically based activities aimed at budding archaeologists to come and try out. Giles will also display his findings from the Hopton Ruined Church onsite dig last year.

see Giles’s website http://www.norvicarchaeology.com/

Also :- Over all three days there will be an exhibition of the work from the Hopton Village History Group.  Volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and show visitors around.   There may be also some medieval folk walking around to!

Volunteering days are every Wednesday and Thursday from 10 until 3.  No experience necessary.  Please call Rachel Harrison for more details.  Hopton Ruined Church Project Co-ordinator Direct : 07785750129 or E-mail : [email protected]

Update: January 2016

As part of their involvement in the project, the pupils of Hopton Primary School gave their entry in the Great Yarmouth Minster’s Tree Festival a Ruins theme. Just before Christmas the project received good news in the shape of a grant of £22,000 from the government’s Coastal Revival Fund. This means that Medieval Masonry will be able to start work on the gable ends at the end of January. More good news came from Hopton Parish Council who have agreed to sponsor up to £300 worth of the landscaping work.

Following the Christmas break volunteers have resumed work . With the capping work on the north wall now complete, work has started on capping the south wall.

Graham Mills. (Project Volunteer).

April 2016

During the last month Medieval Masonry have been busy carrying out conservation work on the gables. The window in the east gable was in a particularly fragile state and parts of the masonry had to be re-secured using stainless steel rods. Despite the ravages of time a corner of the window still retains a fragment of stained glass.

Work on the west gable has revealed an early example of re-cycling, with what

appears to be a gravestone that has been cut down to size and reused as a coping stone.  Meanwhile volunteers continue to make steady progress with the re-pointing work on the tower, and north wall. Progress on the south wall capping has been more erratic due to lack of manpower.

Graham Mills (Project Volunteer)

Record of Gravestones at the Ruins – St. Margaret’s Ruined Church Gravestones October 2016

Heritage Open Days – Saturday 10 September and Sunday 11 September 2016 at the Ruins from 10am to 3pm.  Come along to learn about the history of the Ruins and take a guided tour around the Grade 11* listed site.

October 2016  During the last month the timbers removed from the tower during preservation work together with the surplus flints, bricks, and masonry have been stored in a corner of the garden. A section of security fence has been fitted in the entrance to the tower to keep the public away from the pigeon droppings.

Finally after two and half years the outer security fence is to be removed 20 October and the Millennium Garden is once again open to the public. The area inside the inner fence remains off limits for the time being while volunteers carry out landscaping work.

Graham Mills. (Project volunteer)

The gardens are open!   (October 2016)

You may have noticed that the safety fencing fronting the gardens at the Ruins on Coast Road has now been removed and the gardens are once again open for the public to enjoy. This follows the successful completion of the Ruins Project to stabilise the walls to preserve and protect this valuable heritage asset. The inner security fencing around the actual Ruins will remain in place with the gates locked for the time being whilst landscaping works are carried out.

The Parish Council would like to thank Darren Barker, Project Organiser, GY Preservation Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and all funders, conservation specialists and trainers, structural engineers, architects, ecologist, historians, and all volunteers who have worked tirelessly on the Project for the past few years. In particular, a huge thank you to Rachel Harrison and Graham Mills for all their hard work and perseverance.

Details of the opening ceremony will be in a future edition of Village News. We hope to see you all there to help celebrate Hopton’s heritage.