In a 3 day church crawl taking in many round tower chuches on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk, Hales was the highlight. Simon Jenkins’s single star is a bit of a mystery to us. It is true, however, that this is a church whose delight is in its fabric, not in its furnishings which are sparse to say the least.
Hales has a near-intact Norman nave and apsidal chancel that date to around 1140. It retains the thatched roof that would have been the norm in this area at that time. The splendid north and south doorways are made of Normandy stone and are of the “Broadlands School” that was also responsible for Heckingham and Hellington. Doorways of this school feature discs and stars in their door carvings.
The round tower is believed to be very slightly later than the rest of the church. There is clear evidence that it was added to an existing building, yet its architecture is of the same period.
Few Norman apses survive. This one does despite having Early English windows inserted on each side and a simple c13 one inserted at the east end. This not only replaced the Norman loop window but also caused some of the blind arcading to be filled in, as can be seen in the picture (left). The buttresses are believed to indicate that the roof would have been vaulted at some point.