Saturday, 26 August 2017

Pulham St Mary, Norfolk

St Mary, normally open but a keyholder also listed, by the time I got here it was pushing six pm and the church had been locked for the night. Given that the light was beginning to fade[ish] and I needed to get home by seven thirty I decided against seeking out the the key and settled for exteriors only. I've still got a few other churches in the area to visit so a return visit for interiors is on the cards.

Externally the church has a Suffolk feel to it and the south porch is outstanding.

ST MARY. Quite big, with a strong W tower. The S porch is something phenomenal. Two-storeyed, stone-fronted, with flushwork panelling on the sides. Openwork cresting of reticulation units. Supporters as pinnacles. Small frieze above the base panelling. Doorway with crested capitals, the Annunciation in the spandrels and fleurons up a jamb and arch moulding. Two niches l. and r. Above these eight small figures of angels making music. Frieze of shields in cusped fields, including those of Passion and Trinity. Two upper two-light windows and five niches. Ceiling with moulded beams inside. Fleurons also on the inner doorway. There is no reason to connect this porch with William of Wykeham, who held the living from 1357 to 1361. The porch is evidently C15 work. The W tower has flushwork-panelled battlements. The chancel is much older. Its splendid double piscina of the type of Jesus College Cambridge and Hardingham in Norfolk dates it as mid C13. Straight top; below it an arch and two half-arches intersect. All three of the fine roll mouldings join in the intersecting. In the N wall two lancet windows. The four-light E window, if correctly reproduced, must be some generations later, as it has reticulated tracery. Tall Perp N windows in the nave. Perp S arcade of four bays. Quatrefoil piers with the foils polygonal. Double-chamfered arches. When the aisle was built or rebuilt, the nave was widened on that side. The aisle roof is original, with arched braces and tracery in the spandrels. - SCREEN. Ten painted figures are preserved. They are quite good. The upper part is not original. It belongs to the restoration undertaken by Bodley in 1886-7. He is also responsible for the ORGAN CASE and the painted decoration of the chancel. - BENCHES. Many old ones with poppy-heads; one also with traceried panelling on the back. - STAINED GLASS. In the head of the nave NE window Christ from a Coronation of the Virgin and two angels, early C14. - In the head of another N window twelve complete C15 figures. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, Elizabethan; Paten, probably of before 1706; Flagon, London-made, 1718-19.

S porch (1)

S porch Annunciation (1)

S porch Annunciation (2)

PULHAM ST MARY. It is a pleasant place, with thatched cottages among chestnuts and limes, and a stream flowing near by on its way to the Waveney; and it has an imposing church.

The church porch is a study in itself, and worthy of the high state of the man who is said to have built it. He was John Morton, made Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England by Henry the Seventh and a cardinal by the pope. The porch walls are panelled with traceried stone between bands of quatrefoils, and pinnacles rise from its parapet, which is adorned with curious carvings. The front is enriched with small windows, canopied niches, and angels, and the old roof has embattled beams. Between the nave and the chancel is a graceful old screen, its vaulted canopy with golden ribs and roses, and gilded leaves and flowers trailing over the arches, which are lined with dainty edging like gold lace. The original paintings of saints on the panels are still here for us to see, though now faded and patchy.

The 15th-century font is a mass of colour. The bowl has symbols and gold-winged angels; angels in red, blue, and gold are under the bowl; and the Four Latin Doctors and the Four Evangelists stand round the shaft. The cover of gilded oak has eight arches round a central pinnacle. In medieval glass still treasured here are small blurred figures of the Apostles, Christ in Majesty, and 12 saints. The oldest possession of the church is a fine Norman piscina.

Shelton, Norfolk

The moment you see St Mary, open, you know you're in the presence of something special. To my mind this is one of the finest churches, inside and out, that I've visited to date.

ST MARY. Apart from the great fenland churches W of King’s Lynn and St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, Norfolk has hardly more than half a dozen Perp churches of the first order. Shelton is one of them. It was built by Sir Ralph Shelton, who in his will made in 1487 ordered the church to be completed as he had begun it. It was indeed clearly completed to the same plan to which it had been started (with one exception, on which see below), and so we can assume that Shelton represents one ideal of a new church of about 1480 or 1490. All that was kept from its predecessor is the W tower of flint and the W window of the S aisle, which is Dec. The rest is of red brick with stone dressings, the brick being diapered with vitrified, i.e. dark blue, headers. The S aisle has a two-storeyed porch and three windows, the N aisle no porch, a N doorway oddly squeezed half under the W window, four windows, and between the third and fourth the rood-stair turret. So the fourth windows represent chancel chapels. The church has indeed no projecting chancel, and its shortness at the E end is certainly an aesthetic fault. One wonders at first whether something more ambitious may not have been planned. The E end as it is has one very tall, rather narrow three-light window and beneath it one of the East Anglian E sacristies, accessible by a small doorway S of the altar. Its only window is a low three-light window with uncusped lights. The windows of the aisles are also of three lights. The tracery pattern includes three stepped embattled horizontals between the ogee-headed lights and the tracery. The arches are four-centred. The S windows have monstrously big gargoyles above their heads. There is a clerestory of nine windows on each side, closely set and with triangular buttresses between, as at St Andrew Norwich. Finials were evidently intended or built on every second of these buttresses and on the aisle buttresses. The S porch is of two storeys, the upper cutting into the C14 W window of the aisle. The entrance has spandrels with the Shelton arms. Above it a very tall canopied niche and small one-light windows l. and r. Inside, a fan-vault (no longer a tierceron-star-vault) was begun or - less likely - built and later taken down.

Now the interior. The arcades run to the E end without any break. There are six bays. The piers are slender, the windows large. So the impression, whitewashed as the interior is, is one of light, spaciousness, and evenness. The piers have a lozenge section with four slender shafts in the principal directions and a hollow and a wave moulding in the diagonals. Only the shafts towards the arches have capitals. In the spandrels are flat canopied niches for images. To their l. and r. Perp panelling extends, the window mullion being carried down. Above the canopies demi-figures of angels were to carry the wall-posts of the roof. But, alas, the roof has not survived, or was perhaps never made to as sumptuous a design as the rest. It will have been noticed that we have reason to assume less generosity after than before Sir Ralph’s death. The most poignant argument in this direction is the fact that a canopy was begun between the last two N piers to rise above his well deserved monument, but that there is no monument to his memory now and that the canopy again may have been left unfinished. The E window, only three lights wide, as we have seen, rises right up to the present ceiling, a very exceptional proportion. The aisles have tall and wide blank arcading which is cut into by the upper storey of the porch. So, unless the C14 church had this motif already, it looks as if the second floor of the porch were an afterthought.

FURNISHINGS. FONT. The usual East Anglian font, with four lions against the stem, and, against the bowl, four lions and four demi-figures of angels holding shields with the Instruments of the Passion, the symbol of the Trinity, three crowns, and three chalices. - SCREEN. It is unfortunate that only the dado survives of a screen which ran right across from the N to the S wall. - LECTERN. This seems an original piece. It consists of what looks like two very elongated bench ends with the book-rest between. -BENCHES. A chair in the chancel is made up of bench ends, two of them with a flower on the arm-rest. - COMMUNION RAILS. The present one is Jacobean, but the balusters are so short that they were perhaps made for something else. Used as stall-fronts what was probably the communion rail. Later C17, with dumb-bell balusters. - ROYAL ARMS. Of William III, gorgeously carved. - STAINED GLASS. Much C15 glass in the aisle windows. Two big kneeling donors in the Ss aisle E window. Donors also in the chancel E window. - PLATE. Paten Cover of c.1567; Paten, Norwich-made, 1638; Chalice, London-made, 1785. - MONUMENTS. Under the incomplete canopy a rather bald Elizabethan tombchest with shields of the Shelton family. An identical tombchest in the N aisle NE corner. Between the chancel and the S aisle later C16 tombchest with three shields in lozenge-shaped cusped fields. Against the S aisle S wall a Jacobean monument with kneeling figures, not in its original state. It is to Sir Robert Houghton d. 1623.

NE aisle window (11)

Pulpit & Lectern


SHELTON. It tempts us from the Roman road, for it has a church with a beauty of its own, its flint tower well buttressed in the 14th century, its impressive array of windows coming from the 15th, its clerestory rising high above elegant arcades with niches between the arches. The brick walls, latticed in red and blue and crowned by the clerestory in stone, are a refreshing change in this county with hundreds of flint churches. There are 20 stone angels above the clerestory windows, and angels with lions on the 14th-century font. It was odd, when we called, to hear bees humming in the roof, and to be told that bees were known to have been humming there a hundred years ago.

The church was mostly built from a legacy of Sir Ralph Shelton, whose family were here four centuries. Their old hall has still the wet moat and the foundations of their earlier home, and their monuments are in the church. Among them is another Ralph, who was at Crécy and Poitiers, and the biggest of the tombs is that of Sir John, who was knighted at the crowning of Henry the Eighth and married the aunt of Anne Boleyn; she was governess to Mary Tudor. Their son John has a tomb with seven painted shields. Some of the Sheltons are in the windows, where their names and portraits are in glass of their own day. There are shells and tuns to spell their name, and Sir Ralph is armoured and has a blue coat, his wife with a book; Sir John (in armour) is in blue, with his wife in green and white; and in another window a Shelton couple are kneeling in red robes. Most fascinating of all the memorials is the altar tomb to a judge in his scarlet robes, with his son in white armour and scarlet breeches. Behind the father and the son kneel their two wives in black robes and white ruffs, under an arch.

Wacton, Norfolk

All Saints, open. I thought this was a priory church as externally it strongly reminded me of Little Dunmow in Essex, it's not but the simplicity, both inside and out, of this building is little short of ravishing. Normally this would, without doubt, be my highlight of the day but I still had Shelton to come.

ALL SAINTS. Round tower, the upper half recessed and as thin and tapering as a windmill. Nave and chancel in one, without a chancel arch, internally tall and generous in space. All windows tall, of two lights with ogee tops. The doorways have ogee tops too. The window tracery alternates between a reticulation unit and another simple motif. Ogee-headed sedilia and piscina. The whole is clearly Dec. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp. Against the foot four lions; against the bowl four lions and four demi-figures of angels. - SCREEN. Tall, of the same date as the architecture, see the shafts with shaft-rings instead of mullions and the few tracery motifs. - SOUTH DOOR. Exceedingly large. With good ironwork, also of the time of the building of the church. - COMMUNION RAIL. Early C18, with slender twisted balusters. - PLATE. Norwich made Chalice of 1567 and Paten of 1641.

Looking east

Stephen Hartly 1664 skull

Rood stair

WACTON. Cottages and farms among winding lanes, a church with an ancient story, and a big common at one end make Wacton a pleasant place. The Normans built most of its low round tower, now ivy-grown and with a red brick top peeping over the high roof of the nave; the nave itself, which has flint walls and fine windows, comes from about the time of Richard the Second, as most of the church does. The neat nave and chancel are divided by the upper part of a medieval screen with traceried bays. There are fine seats for the priests, Jacobean altar rails, an ancient door with original strap hinges, and a 15th-century font carved with symbols of the Evangelists on the bowl and four lions round the stem.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Forncett St Peter, Norfolk

St Peter, open. Forgive me if I wax lyrical but a Saxon round tower, good glass, an incised tombchest, quality ledgerstones and a forest of poppyheads, not to mention a stunning setting - this was at the time the church of the day. An outstanding church and practically perfect in every way, only to be beaten by nearby Shelton.

ST PETER. An Anglo-Saxon round tower complete to the top, i.e. with circular windows half-way up, bell-openings of two lights with a deeply recessed shaft and arched or triangular heads three-quarters of the way up, and eight more circular openings just below the top. Narrow, but not small, arch towards the nave on the simplest imposts. The chancel has herringbone flushwork to three-quarters its length, but the windows, like those of the nave, are Perp. N porch with flushwork-panelled base and a panel with IHS above the entrance. Arcade of three bays, quatrefoiled piers with fillets and thin shafts with fillets in the diagonals. Polygonal abaci, sunk arch mouldings, i.e. later C14. Roof with embattled tie-beams and arched braces. - PULPIT. Two-sided, with Jacobean blank arches. - BENCHES. Of the Norfolk type of this area, with poppyheads and unusually many figures l. and r. Not Perp; apparently skilful work of 1857. - PLATE. Paten 1567; Chalice inscribed 1720; Paten inscribed 1804. - MONUMENT. Thomas Drake d. 1485 and wife. Tomb-chest with shields in cusped lozenge fields. Spiral-fluted angle colonnettes. On top incised slab with demi-figures.

W door

Gidney Dereham

Thomas Drake 1485 (4)

Poppyhead (32)

FORNCETT ST PETER. The Tas stream flows by as the village stretches along a byway, and we come to it thinking of the Long Ago, for it has a Saxon tower, and a memory that stirs within us the thought of one of the oldest and most interesting pieces of music in the world. It has been said that it was the work of John Fornsete, but though there is no evidence for this we may be almost sure that this Norfolk monk of Reading Abbey would know its composer and would hear it sung. It is that masterpiece of medieval music Sumer is-i-cumen in, the exquisite part song which thrills us today as it must have thrilled the monks of Reading, the first known example of harmonised secular vocalised music, considered by authorities to be the most remarkable composition that has survived the centuries.

Though the idea that John of Fornsete wrote it has no foundation, John was the keeper of the charts and papers of Reading Abbey, the Chartulary, at the time the song was written, and on the margin on The Reading Calendar of those days, which is part of the manuscript in which the music is preserved, there is a prayer for John of Fornsete written apparently by the author and composer of this historic treasure. The entry is written against St Wulstan’s day, 1239, and says, Ora, Wulstane, pro nostro fratre, Johanne de Fornsete. So that Monk John brings this little place into a famous page of history.

He would know the neat little church as we see it, for it was built of flints 500 years ago, but the round tower is almost twice as old, and there is a mass dial by which the village would tell the time in the days before clocks. The tower John would know, and perhaps the dial. In the belfry are rows of tiny circular windows like peepholes, deeply splayed on both sides, and here and there are other slits for light.

The glory of the church inside is its splendid array of 54 bench ends, richly carved by medieval craftsmen, one of the finest collections we have come upon in Norfolk. Under their foliage poppyheads are figures at each side, a most interesting gallery with disciples and apostles, Judas with his money bags, a woman in what looks like a sentry box, a man with a coffer of money on his knees and a demon in front of him, another man sitting on the shoulders of a wild creature, a sower with his basket, a baker behind his counter with pies and loaves, and men with scythes. On a big 15th-century tomb are the engraved portraits of Thomas Drake and his wife Elizabeth, who founded the aisle in which they lie; he wears an ermine collar and she the kennel headdress of their day.

Both the aisles and the nave have fine old roofs. The font is 500 years old; the pulpit is a survival of the Jacobean three-decker. The rood stairs are still here and the north porch has ancient heads of a bishop and a queen.

Long Stratton, Norfolk

St Mary, locked no keyholder which is a shame as it appears to be full of interest inside. I had to make do with externals of this round tower church all the while berating its locked status.

To be fair I should point out that this was one of two inaccessible churches out of fifteen I visited that day but, and there normally is a but, this is such a public and passed building that there's no reasonable reason to keep it locked. Definitely one of those where I want to shake someone whilst saying it's not yours it's ours.

ST MARY. Round tower, round to the top. With a lead spike. Nave, aisles, and chancel. All windows Perp. Seven clerestory windows on each side. Big Early Perp E window. Inside, both arcades are of four bays and both are of the C14, the N arcade early, the S arcade later. The N arcade has quatrefoil piers with fillets and in the arches one chamfer and one wave moulding. The S arcade has the usual octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. - FONT. Perp. Panelled stem, bowl with quatrefoils. - FONT COVER. Jacobean. Very charming and airy. Balusters, volutes, and a finial. - PULPIT. Jacobean, with broad blank arches. - BENCHES. Many ends, many poppyheads, also one end with a figure in relief below the poppyhead. - STAINED GLASS. Much in the E window, of mixed dates and origin, all put together as a pattern. The large panel of the Baptism of Christ is French, late C15. - SEXTON’S WHEEL. One of only two surviving ones; the other is at Yaxley in Suffolk. They were used to determine the day of the Lady Fast, a voluntary, movable fast day to be kept for seven years. The wheel consists, as one can see, really of two wheels. The sexton attached bits of string to six of the fleurs-de-lis of one wheel and then set both in rapid motion. The day which the string of the one wheel caught in the other was the day to be observed. A sexton’s wheel is illustrated in the Basel edition of Brant’s Narrenschiff, published in 1497. - PLATE. London made Chalice and Paten, 1567. - MONUMENT. Edmund Reve d. 1647. Big, rather bald standing monument. Two effigies, she recumbent, he a little behind and above her, propped up on an elbow.

St Mary (4)

LONG STRATTON. It lies on the Roman road and its story goes back to the Normans, who left the round tower of its church as their monument. It was the 14th century that gave it its battlements and the stumpy spire.

The village has a treasure very rare in the land, a medieval Sexton’s Wheel hanging on the wall of the church. It is a very queer survival, one of only two known, and consists of two round wheels of ornamented ironwork about three feet across, fixed so that they can revolve either way. Spokes divide the wheels into sections representing the days of the year sacred to the Madonna, and in each division is a fleur-de-lys and a hole with a string. Anyone who wished to keep the Madonna’s Fast (a penance observed once a week for seven years) would try to catch hold of a string as the wheel went round, and so determine the fast day. It is all a little childish, no doubt, but such things happened 500 years ago when this quaint wheel was made. It is the only wheel of its kind now left except one other at Yaxley, in Suffolk.

The church itself is 14th century, having been built by Sir Roger de Bourne, who sleeps here with his brother the rector. There is a lovely oak pulpit, a beautiful linenfold door of ancient oak, something of the old chancel screen with flowers, and a chair with winged snakes on its arm-rests. The altar-rails are very beautiful, with posts and balusters of Queen Elizabeth’s day. The east window has a row of Flemish roundels in old glass showing the Nativity, the Descent from the Cross, and the Stoning of Stephen.

On a great monument in the chancel rests Sir Edmund Reve, in the red robes of a judge and wearing a four-cornered cap; his wife is below him with her head on red and green cushions, a white kerchief round her neck, a book in one hand and the other gathering up the folds of her dress. A crumbling canopied tomb to a rector of 550 years ago has still some of its original red paint. Three rectors in the three centuries after him served 160 years between them.

Morningthorpe, Norfolk

St John the Baptist, open, is sadly over restored and rather soulless but with a good font and some excellent ledgerstones and more importantly a round tower one of five today. Have I mentioned how much I love round towers?

ST JOHN BAPTIST. Round tower, round to the top. Unmoulded arch to the nave. Unmoulded square imposts, with two thin incised parallel horizontal lines. Nave and chancel Perp. The pretty piscina with ogee arch, and in the spandrels a flower and a face with tongue stuck out, is considered Dec by Cautley. - FONT. Octagonal. Against the stem four lions, against the bowl four lions and four demi-figures of angels. - PLATE. Elizabethan Chalice. - MONUMENTS. Elizabethan monument without effigy or inscription. Tomb-chest with pilasters and shields. Back wall with pilasters and a four-centred arch. Oblong panel with coat of arms. The monument probably commemorates Richard Garneys, who bought Boyland Hall in 1571. - Margaret Gostling d. 1723, by Thomas Stayner. Tablet with barley-sugar columns.

Anna Garneys nee Gaudy 1681 arms

E window (12)

VR arms

MORNINGTHORPE. It lies tucked away in charming lanes a mile and more from the Roman road between Norwich and Ipswich, and has fine old Tudor houses among lovely trees. One charming Elizabethan house facing the church has quaint chimney stacks, a spreading cedar in its garden, and a barn with a finely patterned thatch. Another Elizabethan house near the church stands in its park, and was the home of the Howes, whose memorials tell us that John made the world better for his living, that his son John was a merciful man, that Thomas was rector for 51 years of last century, and that Edward was 12 years MP for Norfolk.

Under a recessed tomb in the chancel, with carvings of a spade, pickaxe, hourglass, skull and crossbones, sleeps Martha Garney, who died in 1694. She was the last of the Garneys of Boyland Hall, yet another Elizabethan house which stands in a valley north of the village, the River Tas flowing through its grounds. It is a big grey house with many chimneys, and has over one entrance a bust of Queen Elizabeth.

Small like the village, the church is neat and simple and aisleless, and comes chiefly from the 15th century except for the round tower with its uneven walls, which was built by the Normans. Its stout arch is Norman, but the west window and those of the belfry were inserted 600 years ago, and the parapet is modern. A medieval mass dial is in the wall. The old font has lions at the foot and winged angels under the bowl. A pretty 15th-century piscina has a pinnacled canopy, Tudor rose and a leopard’s face in the spandrels, and a mix-leaved drain. Over the tower arch the royal arms are boldly  carved out of a solid block of oak, and painted. Modern days have given the church roofs adorned with angels and flower bosses, and enriched the nave and chancel with poppyhead seats, one of which a fine John the Baptist in camel hair and mantle.

Stratton St Michael, Norfolk

St Michael, open, has a sign on its noticeboard which says "at this location there are Commonwealth War Graves" which I've not seen before. Not, I believe, unreasonably, I expected to find a reasonable cache of CWGC headstones here, only to find precisely none. I double checked online when I got home and the CWGC website reported no official headstones in the churchyard - most peculiar perhaps the sign has been borrowed from somewhere else.

Other than that this is a pleasant site with a great tower with an unusual spirelet unlike any I've seen and a good font green with damp.

ST MICHAEL. Short unbuttressed W tower with recessed wooden turret carrying a spirelet. Chancel early C14 with reticulation in the E window, but also Y-tracery and a piscina still without ogee. Perp nave. - FONT. With four lions and four demi-figures of angels. - SCREEN. Only the plain dado. - BENCHES. Some ends with poppy-heads, two with figures in relief below the poppy-heads. Some of the benches have castellated tops like little turret platforms instead of poppyheads. - COMMUNION RAIL. Later C17, with dumb-bell balusters. It was apparently originally three-sided. - STAINED GLASS. Fragments in nave window heads. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten, Norwich, 1567.

Font (1)

John Cowall 1509 (3)

Angel & child

STRATTON ST MICHAEL. Down a lane with two small cottages and a farm for company stands the medieval church, with tall sweet limes among its encircling trees. Its sloping walls, its pantiled roofs, its low tower, with the spire like a cap within the parapet, intrigue the visitor, and an ancient door with its original strap-hinges leads us into a nave and chancel which have no separating arch, though with different roofs. The nave roof is black and white with flower bosses; the chancel roof is green with old wallplates at its sides. On the old font bowl are lions and angels, but the lions on its base have lost their heads; the piscina is still elaborate with its carving and its pillars. The altar rails and the fronts of the choir seats are Jacobean and on two old poppyhead bench-ends is a bishop with his crozier and St Catherine with her wheel. Only a few fragments of glass recall the glory of these windows in bygone days.