The 16th Century to 1862
Although the Reformation, which started around 1532, swept away many abuses, it actually marked the start of the decline of the Cromer church building. When Papal Supremacy was abolished in 1534, King Henry VIII (1509-1546) seized the Advowson for himself, from the Court of Carthusians, and later deprived the church of its Manors and other properties. This had disastrous consequences for the fabric, and there was a great decline in the fortunes of this noble structure. Within the course of a hundred years the Chancel had fallen into an irremediable state of repair. A brief restoration was carried out in 166 but the decline continued and, in 1681, a certain Rev. Thomas Gill, Rector of Ingworth and lessee of the great tithes, sought and obtained permission from the Bishop of Norwich to pull the chancel down. To their everlasting shame this was carried out with the use of gunpowder.
There was no improvement and, indeed, the decline in the next 70 years was such that only 2 marriages were registered between the years of 1728 and 1757. Serious consideration was given as to whether the church should be completely demolished but, thanks to the efforts of William Windham of Felbrigg, who interceded with the Bishop of Norwich, the church was reprieved. Nothing was done to halt the decay, however, and the situation became very critical.
In 1767, most of the nave and aisle roofs had fallen in and the remainder had been pulled down to prevent accidents. Services were being held under the tower, for safety reasons. The estimated cost of repairing the church was in the region of £1,000. This was a formidable sum to the town's inhabitants who were mostly poor fishermen, so the Bishop of Norwich gave permission to sell 4 bells, lead from the now demolished roofs and many other saleable materials. We can only conjecture that this must have included valuable brasses and wood carvings etc. which must have been a great loss to the church. The money realised was spent on making the church weatherproof. Windows were filled in with wood or bricks, thereby destroying much of the tracery and stained glass windows.
Much of the building's beauty disappeared and, to make matters worse, a gallery was erected at the west end. In fact, almost everything done at this time was to spoil the remaining architectural beauty of the church. The 18th century was indeed a period of darkness and despair for Cromer Parish Church.