At first sight, the 15th-century Church of St Andrew in Covehithe appears to be just another church ruin, deserted in a field at the end of an ordinary country lane on the edge of town. But eagle-eyed visitors will notice the number of relatively modern headstones in the graveyard on the grounds. These hold the site’s secret: the 17th-century church nestled within the ruins.
Built on the bequest of a wealthy resident, the original St Andrew’s, a magnificent building, became too expensive for the small village to maintain. From the day the first stone was laid, the church was disproportionate to the size of the village, whose population never exceeded 300 people. By the late-1600s, the decision was made to dismantle the larger church and erect a smaller one on the site, built with materials from the original structure.
The 17th-century church that’s nestled within the walls of this 15th-century ruin is romantic, picturesque, and very unexpected. The new church exhibits the rather austere simplicity of religious houses of the era. Only the octagonal font (much defaced by Oliver Cromwell’s agents in the 16th century), the pulpit, and three poppy-head pew ends remain from the original church.
The 17th-century church is in current use, while the ruins and iconic tower of the 15th-century church are maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust.
Know Before You Go
Follow the "Historic Church" sign in the town center past the old church in the village proper to the end of the lane. St. Andrew's is on the left at the end of a lane leading directly towards the sea.