St Cyriac & St Julitta’s
These are dedications to Christian martyrs of the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian around AD304. They are unusual: this is one of only nine English churches to recognise the child martyr Cyriac and the dedication at Swaffham is thought to have been a Norman initiative since his cult was popular in Normandy and Provence. Of the nine dedications, six also recognise his mother, Julitta.
Being on the more favourable higher ground, St Cyriac’s is thought to be the older foundation of the two churches on the site. What we see today, however, is a church that was completely rebuilt in 1810 by Charles Humfrey, with the exception of the west tower that dates from 1493.
Ironically, it is this church that is now redundant and the much older St Mary’s is the parish church. With St Mary’s in a state of disrepair, St Cyriac’s functioned as the sole parish church for a hundred years after its rebuilding. It seems, however, to have gradually been regarded with some contempt. Its box pews (now removed) became very unfashionable and there was no provision for a pipe organ or a choir. One of its vicars, Lawrence Fisher called it “an almost grotesque travesty of a church, standing where once there was a beautiful one”. The writing was on the wall for St Cyriac’s. St Mary’s was restored and became the sole parish church in 1903 while poor old St Cyriac’s was left to decay again before being rescued by the Churches Conservation Trust in 1973.