Methwold Old Vicarage

Methwold, Norfolk

Overview

This is an intriguing building whose distinctive brick gable-end is unique in Norfolk and possibly beyond. Inside, its moulded timbers and late 16th-century wall paintings demonstrate the skill and care taken in its construction.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • DishwasherDishwasher
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • ShowerShower
  • Waitrose DeliveryWaitrose Delivery

Beds 1 Single, 1 Twin, 1 Double

Sleeps
5
4 nights from
£314 equivalent to £15.70 per person, per night

A puzzle to decipher

The architectural DNA suggests different additions have been made to Methwold Old Vicarage over the years making it somewhat of a puzzle. Its timber frame and brickwork points towards the 15th century whilst its wall paintings are dated a little later to the 16th century. One of the biggest puzzles of this Landmark is why such a wonderfully decorated house would have been built for the priest of such a small village on the edge of the fens. Once upon a time a thatched roof would have adorned the top of this Landmark and it would have been a large and prestigious home. Rescued by Monica and Harry Dance, who ran the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, this timber framed house of extraordinary richness is now run by The Landmark Trust. 

Heart of East Anglian countryside

With its twists and turns and cubby holes, Methwold Old Vicarage also has an open fire and an ample kitchen with lots of space for cooking and dining. The upper floors were decorated by acanthus leaves by a late 16th-century craftsman and they run rampant across studs and plasterwork. Methwold lies at the junction of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, and is surrounded by beautiful countryside and evidence of the medieval wealth of East Anglia. Ely, King's Lynn and Bury St Edmunds are all within a 45 minute drive. More locally and of historical signicfance is Oxburgh Hall which is just up the road. 

‘Who was sitting here by the fire to be told of the Armada, or Cromwell’s victory?’

‘I have fallen in love with Methwold Old Vicarage; the garden is perfect for Tai Chi.’

From the logbook

 

Floor Plan

Map & local info

On the edge of Methwold village, Methwold Old Vicarage stands in its pleasant garden, opposite the beautiful St George's Church. Every Monday, an auction market of all sorts of rarities and curiosities is held in the village.

Grime's Graves, the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain, is just a short distance from here in the heart of the Brecks, a unique landscape full of wildlife, walks, activities and places to visit.

The annual Steam Rally, held each July in nearby Weeting, has trade and craft stalls as well as vintage vehicles, something to keep everyone entertained. 

The historic city of Ely is an ideal place to visit, with its awe inspiring cathedral, Stained Glass Museum and Oliver Cromwell's House, from where you can follow the Ely Eel Trail to explore more of this charming city.

Close by is Oxburgh Hall (7 miles). You can gain free entry to it with a National Art Pass, which enables its 122,000 holders to enjoy free and discounted entry to over 225 museums, galleries and historic houses throughout the UK. The pass is presented by one of Landmark's partners, the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, which has been supporting museums and galleries for over 110 years by helping them to buy and display great works of art for everyone to enjoy. Income raised through the National Art Pass goes straight back into their charitable programme. Find more about it on the ArtFund's website http://www.artfund.org/

For more information on things to do during your stay at Methwold Old Vicarage, please see our Pinterest page. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Methwold Old Vicarage
Methwold, Norfolk
Clear directions
FAQs

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    From the main road.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Ely – 16 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there are two spaces about 5m from the property.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters, a coal stove and an open fire.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of logs, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker and a dishwasher.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a bath and a shower room.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    No, the stairs are not particularly steep.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is an enclosed garden.

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact webmaster@landmarktrust.org.uk.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • What time can I arrive and what time do I have to depart from the Landmark?

    Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there toilet rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.
History

Something of a puzzle

Architecturally, the Old Vicarage is something of a puzzle. Its timber framing and brickwork are early – probably late 15th century. Its wall paintings are dated a little later, in the 16th century. Originally thatched, it would have been a large and prestigious house for its period; today’s roofspace has lime-rendered partitions suggesting that accommodation once extended across three floors. While the central and south sections are later extensions, their brick plinth also dates from 1490-1510, suggesting that the original fabric extended at least the full extent of today’s footprint.

So why, even at a period when the power and influence of the Church was at its height immediately before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, would the house for a priest in a small village on the edge of the fenland be built with such a glorious but worldly display of moulded brickwork? To an extent the same puzzle applies to the moulded beams inside and even more so to the wall paintings (although these may reflect the taste of later, non-ecclesiastical inhabitants).

The interconnecting rooms and large downstairs chamber suggest multiple uses as well as lodging for a priest. The building of church houses was a common feature of the late 15th century, buildings used much as village halls are today as a meeting room or space for the villagers to congregate for Church Ales. Perhaps there were links between the living and nearby Castle Acre Priory; a church house could also double as a lodging block for visitors to a priory. Equally, the manor of Methwold had been part of the Duchy of Lancaster and therefore Crown property since 1347; perhaps accommodation was required for the Crown representative. Perhaps simply the house was built for a lay owner and passed into church ownership later. Certainly church houses were built to a high standard: the Priest’s House in Halcombe Rogus was also a church house from a similar date and is a far more typical expression of the form, with fine but essentially sober detailing. But all this is speculation in trying to resolve why Methwold Old Vicarage presents such an essentially secular form – the documents have yet to provide an answer.

With all the debate that surrounds the divestment of vicarages by the Church, it is somehow reassuring to discover that Methwold Old Vicarage has been an ‘old’ (in the sense of former) vicarage since the mid 18th century, and possibly long before that. Through all this time, it was an impropriate vicarage, or one whose upkeep had been handed to the lay patron of the living. But Methwold parish had been impropriate since long before that. As early as 1533, ‘a fine was levied between the King and Thomas, Prior of Castle-Acre, of this [Methwold] Rectory, and the Advowson of the Vicarage, and soon after, on 22 Dec in the said Year, the King granted them to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk’ (assuming this does indeed refer to this house rather than a different one since lost). It must be from these next years that the wall paintings date. In 1614, the rectory and the advowson of the vicarage were alienated to Sir Henry Hobart. While some vicars of Methwold listed in St George’s opposite must have lived in the vicarage, by the 1670s the house had lay tenants and possibly long before that.

By 1800, the house was in a state of some disrepair, was being lived in by two families and considered unsuitable for the hospitality deemed appropriate for a vicar to offer. This was used by the patron, John Partridge, as justification for the uniting of the livings of Methwold and Cranwich at this date. By the mid 19th century the great Victorian revival in the Church of England had shifted the emphasis from hospitality to care of souls in the duties of their vicars. Cranwich and Methwold were therefore disunited in 1853 and in 1854 a ‘neat new vicarage house’ was erected at the other end of the parish in Southery.

This was lamented by Rev. John Denny Gedge in his history of the village in 1893: ‘Oh! If my predecessor, instead of erecting my vicarage house out of contact with the village, at one end of this enormous parish of nearly 14,000 acres, had but accepted … the New Hall adjoining, and secured the old Vicarage for parish rooms, for clubs, for mothers’ meetings… and other such uses, restoring the two long apartments of which it consists to their old dimensions … Oh! if some charitable millionaire even now would buy it, and its price would be very small, and present it to the parish.’ By the Rev. Gedge’s day, the Old Vicarage was still divided into two cottages and was still showing signs of neglect – ‘now, alas! The tenant of one of the two cottages …has been allowed to smother it with ivy. Oh! If some nightly visitant would but sever the stems of that accursed plant. Why should a community have no power against private vandalism?’

The building’s decline continued into the 20th century. By the 1930s, its poor condition brought it to the attention of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Despite their efforts on behalf of the building, the absentee landlord seemed to be hoping to demolish it and rebuild. It had become tenements for four families, each with a living room and larder and two bedrooms and a communal tap outside. By the early 1960s, it was scheduled for demolition as unfit for human habitation. Its saviour then appeared in the form of Monica Dance (Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings from 1939 to 1978), who bought the Old Vicarage with her husband Harry in 1964 and restored it with characteristic sensitivity. In 1979 the Dances handed their former home, Manor Farm, to Landmark’s care and moved to Methwold. Over the years the Dances hosted many gatherings of the SPAB scholars at the Old Vicarage, young craftsmen being trained in traditional skills under the aegis of the SPAB.

Restoration

Monica Dance left the building to the SPAB

When Monica Dance died in 1998 she left the Old Vicarage to the SPAB, who then approached the Landmark Trust for help with the on-going maintenance of the building. It is a timber-framed house of extraordinary richness. Only a single room wide, it is continuously jettied along its west elevation. This range has carved spandrels to the supporting brackets, with stumpy octagonal shafts and capitals.

The extension at the rear was added later. The building’s chief glory is the spectacular stepped brick end-gable decorated with moulded terracotta ornament and an octagonal chimneystack. The stack is divided into five zones by moulded bands decorated in a variety of patterns. This gable is unique to the area and possibly beyond. The main ground floor chamber holds some fine beams, the smaller timbers having a simple running roll-mould and the larger with a crumpled ribbon twisted around the shaft, tied at intervals. The motif is echoed on the bressumer above the moulded brick fireplace (which has unfortunately been hacked back in the past). Similar features are also found in the interconnecting suite of rooms above, together with some early wall paintings also dating from the 16th century.

When the Dances came to restore the building in the 1970s, they kept the evidence of the building’s division into cottages with the change of floor level in the main chamber. They rediscovered the five-light mullioned window beneath later render on the first floor. Their intervention in the repairs of the timber frame and internal fittings and their insertion of the large window on the ground floor are also clear and are identified through the paint regimen. Few changes were made when the building became a Landmark; the Landmark accommodation is limited to the north and central sections of the house (the rest is empty for now). A new bathroom and kitchen were installed in the same rooms used by the Dances for these purposes and wiring and heating were upgraded. Otherwise, the only visible change is a new colour scheme inside and a heavier coat of limewash for the members in the timber frame. We hope Monica and Harry Dance would approve of this gentle transformation.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.