Normanton Church – Normanton, England - Atlas Obscura

Normanton Church

Normanton, England

The sanctuary seems to either float atop the water or sink into the dirt, depending on the water level. 


No matter when you visit Normanton Church, you will behold a magnificent sight. The church, which was built in the 1760s on a foundation from the 14th century, often seems to be floating on the lake where it is situated. When the water is low, a different illusion presents itself, as the church almost appears to be sinking under its own weight.

The Normanton Church has had major renovations and augmentations throughout the centuries, the most recent being in 1964. Even then, it was nearly destroyed in 1970 when the county planned to flood the area and create a reservoir.

Had it not been for huge public outcry, much of the church would have been submerged and its foundation destroyed. Instead, an alternate plan was designed. The church’s floor was raised by 60 feet, and a causeway was created from the church’s “island” to the lake shore so people could still access the sanctuary when the reservoir’s water was high.

The church, which is now deconsecrated, became a private parish for the Heathcoate family, who built their estate in Normanton in the 18th century. It’s now a popular location for weddings, concerts, and other social events.

The water surrounding it is now one of Europe’s largest human-made lakes. It has been dedicated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and Historic England designated the Normanton Church a Grade II listed building.

Know Before You Go

You can always see the Normanton Church from the shores of Normanton Water, but public visits to the church itself are only permitted on certain days. Check its website to see when it is open to the public and when it is closed for weddings and other private events.

This wondrous church in its spectacular setting is a photographer’s dream. Plan on spending enough time to see it at different times of day, as the shifting light can also enhance the illusion. Out on the water, you can often see swans and sailboats, which only adds to its fairytale appeal.

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