Our History

St. Mary’s Church was built in 1826 by Fr. John Holden before the Catholic emancipation act of 1829 and solemnly blessed by Bishop Thomas Walsh, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District, on July 6th 1827. 
It was the first Catholic Church to be used for public worship in Thetford since the Reformation.

It is the oldest remaining free-standing Catholic Church in East Anglia.

Style and detailing

The inconspicuous building with arched windows and clear glass quarries hid and highlighted at the same time the fact that it is a church.
Built of the local flint with brick dressings the exterior belies the interior.


The church features an impressive painting of the Nativity by James Parry (1835) which has some of the characteristics of a ‘Rest on the Flight to Egypt’. It is a copy of a painting by Giovanni Battista Pittoni made in about 1740 that hangs over the altar in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. 
Giovanni Battista, sometimes called Giambattista, Pittoni was a Venetian painter of religious, historical, and mythological pictures.

Further design elements and changes over time

The Corinthian Style pillars and capitals in the sanctuary and the modern altar make the sanctuary stunning. The presbytery was built on the west end of the church in 1829. The balcony at the back of the church was added in 1962.


100 years after

Historical documents

“Small friendly church, the people seem very welcoming.”

Verified Local Guide, Google Review

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