Saint Mary was one of the churches closed in the wake of the Reformation, but unlike all of the others, it was not demolished. The parish, which also includes that of St. Cuthbert, was united with St. George Tombland.
In 1565 the City authorities arranged for thirty households of religious refugees from the Netherlands to settle in Norwich. Called "strangers" they were weavers who know how to make the specialist cloth, which became the trade that Norwich excelled in.
The Church of St Mary the Less was given to them as a cloth hall. Some of the later "strangers" were French speaking Walloons and they took over the church of St Mary the Less in 1637 for their services in French, which continued until 1832.
After that, it was leased to the New Jerusalem church of Swedenborgians. This denomination was formed in 1787 by some followers of the mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg. They remained here until 1852 when they moved to Park Lane.
In 1852 it was taken over by another denomination, the Catholic Apostolic Church or Irvingites. They were firm believers in the immanence of the Second Coming, and had no provision for continuing their ministry, and so as the ministers died, the denomination gradually dwindled. The Norwich minister died in 1953, and the church was given up.
The church was then used as a parish hall for St Andrew's parish, and from 1959 until 1985 as a warehouse for Robertson & Coleman, a furnishing shop across the road.
Today the church is privately owned and in need of further work before it resumes a role in the community of the 21st century. Surrounded on three sides by more modern buildings it is easy to miss the small entrance tucked away between the various estate agencies and other offices on Queen Street.
|All Saints Westlegate||St. George Tombland||St. Julian||St. Michael at Plea|
|St. Andrew||St. Giles||St. Lawrence||St. Peter Hungate|
|St. Augustine||St. Gregory||St. Margaret||St. Peter Mancroft|
|St. Benedict||St. Helen||St. Martin at Oak||St. Peter Parmentergate|
|St. Clement||St. James Pockthorpe||St. Martin at Palace Plain||St. Saviour|
|St. Edmund Fishergate||St. John de Sepulchre||St. Mary Coslany||St. Simon & St. Jude|
|St. Etheldreda||St. John Maddermarket||St. Mary the Less||St. Stephen|
|St. George Colegate||St. John Timberhill||St. Michael(Miles) Coslany||St. Swithin|