"Not Forgotten" - Flower Laying Ceremony at Swaffam Prior
This morning at Swaffam Prior, at one of The Churches Conservation Trust’s nationwide “Not Forgotten” events, around fifty villagers gathered to remember the Great War together. White lilies, representing innocence and rebirth, were placed reverently upon the altar of St Cyriac's as a powerful symbol of remembrance for all those who were affected by the conflict. Individual pink lilies were then laid in memory of specific family members of local people who had lost their lives. After a long moment of reflective silence, poems and letters from the front were read aloud.
The strange and beautiful St. Cyriac & St. Julitta is, very unusually, one of two churches sharing the same churchyard. Until they were amalgamated in 1667, the two neighbouring parishes had their own churches. They both then saw varied fortunes including periods of dereliction, until St Mary’s became the formal parish church for both. St Cyriac's has a 15th-century octagonal bell tower and a ring of six bells, with an elegant Georgian interior that has fantastic acoustics.
St. Mary’s boasts three well-known 1919 war memorial windows, unique in their explicit documentation of the brutality, violence, and horror suffered by those who were involved in the Great War. Two of the windows depict scenes from the war, complete with tanks, zeppelins and aeroplanes, while the third, a “peace window,” shows idyllic scenes of the rural life soldiers might have hoped to return to.
The group moved from their solemn commemoration at St. Cyriac’s to listen to a BBC radio documentary about the windows at St. Mary’s, recorded in 1995. The programme captured and preserved the last living memories of a bygone age from residents of Swaffam, who spoke movingly of the pressures on young men to join up, the sadness of the losses they suffered, and the hardship of returning home to a nation that had been changed forever.
The Church of St. Cyriac & St. Julitta is open to visitors every day from 10am-5pm.