Amazingly, despite being such a small village, there were once three churches in Barton Bendish – St Andrew’s, St Mary’s, and the now demolished All Saints. It is a curiosity not only to have three churches, but that they were all built so close together, and at more or less the same time.
St Andrew’s is the church currently in use and is thought to have probably been the first to be built. It is known that the first rector of St Andrew’s was Roger de Elmham in about 1230. The roof which was originally thatch was replaced with new timbers and slate in the mid 19th century. The old Rectory in Church Road was built in 1725 and was home to the resident rectors of St Andrew’s until the 1930s.
St Mary’s was last used for services in 1967 and was finally made redundant in 1974. The building is early 14th century and the first rector to be recorded was Hugh de Swafham in 1308. Originally St Mary’s had a tower but it fell down during a storm in 1710. The unique late Norman doorway at the west end of the little church dates to c1140 and was moved there from All Saints c1790. Further restoration work was carried out in 1865 and a newspaper report in 1903 stated that ‘the roof, which was formerly of tiles and thatch, was now slate’. This roof was removed and replaced with thatch in 1976 as part of restoration work carried out by the Churches Conservation Trust. The large rectory for St Mary’s was totally rebuilt in 1866.
All Saints stood opposite St Andrew’s and is believed to have been built on the site of a small wooden church. The first recorded rector was John Clare in 1325 and it was demolished circa 1788. The three medieval bells passed through the hands of a dealer in Downham Market and are believed to have ended up in St Michael’s church at Whitwell, now redundant and used as a parish hall, which adjoins Reepham church in Norfolk.
A Wesleyan chapel was built at Barton Bendish (in Chapel Lane) in 1875 and another at Eastmoor in 1899. Both have now been converted into houses.