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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

St Mary, Ditchingham

This beautiful country church with it’s 100’ tower is set well away from the village, and bears silent witness to the Christian faith.
The present church was begun in 1479 with the North aisle added on in 1873.

The West doorway has a canopied niche on either side which hold large carved statues..these are basically original but have been sympathetically repaired .

The C15 South door has a small niche over it’s porch door holding a small statue of the Virgin....




   ….This South medieval door is the main entrance to the church, and  has    fine tracery.



On entering the church the first thing one sees is a massive black marble memorial to the fallen in the 1914/18 Great War.  This has a life size bronze statue of a soldier lying at it’s base, and is the work of Derwent Wood.

…Probably because of the sombre nature of this huge black memorial this   end of the church appears quite dark.
 



The Tudor font has eight columns of support around it’s stem




There are many mementos of the Ryder-Haggard family in the church (Sir Henry Ryder-Haggard was the author of ‘King Soloman’s Mines, among other adventure books) It was he who restored the South porch of this church in 1896….and he and his wife who donated the clock to the church in 1892 - in memory of their son Jack who sadly died from measles aged ten.
Most of the previous restoration to the church was in 1847 when the box pews were replaced by benches and a new pulpit and lectern were installed.

 The chancel ceiling is brightly painted and is the work of Mrs Scudamore, the vicar’s wife c1862…a  painstaking labour of love.






She was also responsible for the lovely paintwork on the reredos




The Altar is thought to be C17




The Rood screen is basically medieval, although beautifully restored in 1926







All the windows in the chancel are unusual and cheerfully coloured, with a predominance of gold... These have special dedications. One of the windows is in memory of Sir Henry Ryder-Haggard, given by his daughter after his death in 1925. (I believe his ashes are interred at Ditchingham)





A few large early tombstones are in the churchyard, unfortunately through the passage of time the wording on them has become undecipherable.



Friday, 11 April 2014

All SaintsChurch, Wheatacre




Such a charming church set in a secluded setting in the middle of marshland. The gravestones in the churchyard tells us this church once belonged at the hub of a large busy community in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nowadays there’s only a few houses scattered around this rural area.

The approach to the church is down it’s own short driveway protected by hedgerows and a few trees.
The most significant thing which greets the eye on entering through the church gate is the Tudor tower with it’s chequerboard pattern in flint and red brick – typical of the Tudor period….The outside of the church itself appears to be a Victorian restoration.


The rood screen looks Victorian but has the most delicate tracery which could be original and from the C15


The font is from the C15 and has painted panels…I believe these must have been overpainted at a later date as the colours are still quite bright. The flamboyant wooden font cover is also from a later date and carved in an art nouveau style with flowers and fruit….a little incongruous but seems to work well.


The original Nave was no wider than the Chancel, but at the end of the C14 a larger Nave was required, therefore the North wall was demolished and a new one built adding six feet to it’s width. A large chancel arch was built in the East wall of the nave with the expectation of a wider chancel also being built, but this sadly was left at it’s original width (possibly through lack of money to carry out the intended work)..Part of this arch is now filled in and a smaller arch was built beneath it into the current chancel.


The church originally had a chancel with a chapel on either side, but the South chapel has disappeared and it’s  arch from the chancel into the chapel blocked with a wall containing windows

The South porch was added in Tudor Times, and has heads of a King and Queen acting as stops to the ogee shaped arch over the C14 church doorway.

King's head stop 





              Queen's head  stop



The church was restored in the mid 1880’s.

This is a really delightful church and has an equally pleasing churchyard to explore




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Church of St Margaret, Hales

Do you ever find that there’s a place that keeps drawing you back to it?...

I’m  like that with the unpretentious little medieval church of St Margaret, Hales in Norfolk. I know I have written about it previously but it is one of my favourite churches.

…I have visited many more prettier and exuberant churches, but none of them has the simplistic appeal as this one....After being abandoned the church was taken under the protection of the Church Conservation Trust in 1974 and it’s remaining furnishings are very sparse with nothing of materialistic value, but this empty little church has an unquestionable hold over my emotions

apsidal chancel


  


                                        medieval bench pew


On entering the church via the splendid North Norman door I always feel an overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity.
 The first thing which meets the eye is the well preserved octagonal
C15 font, and beyond that on the South wall is the remains of a C14 wall painting of St Christopher...along this same wall is a splendid wall painting thought to be that of St James the Great holding a scroll and staff.




 


St Christopher


              


St James




Many other traces of wall paintings can been seen throughout the church

Only the dado part of the rood screen remains with it’s painted panels, sadly this is now faded and deteriorating, but still very charming.


The stairs up to the West gallery still remain so one can get an overview of the interior of the church.

The round Western tower (mainly seen in East Anglia) was built around the same time as the main body of the church – some people believe it was just before and others that it was just after, but one thing is certain, it is decidedly medieval

.The South Norman doorway, although not so imposing as the North Doorway is nevertheless splendid.....
...and has a mass dial (sometimes called scratch dials) -  these can usually be seen near doorways on medieval churches, but sadly many are now worn away with time. The overwhelming reasoning thought to be behind these dials is their  use to relay to the people when the next service was due.

 This church still has it’s apsidal chancel which was common in the C12, having escaped the pulling down and rebuilding of a chancel with straight east walls which were later to become more popular. I think the main reason I love this little church is because it’s one of the few remaining examples of a Norman church which gives us a view of  what it was like in it’s original form….It’s a real connection with the past eight hundred years

I’ve no doubt over the years I’ll be returning time and time again to this evocative church which I privately call my sanctuary.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

St Mary's Uggeshall


On approaching the church through the modern wooden thatched lych-gate you may be forgiven for wrongly thinking this thatched roof church looks incomplete, as it has no high tower… but this Grade 1 listed church has quite a turbulent history.

During the Reformation many of it’s treasures were looted or destroyed, and a century later under the Puritan cleansing, the medieval glass and the rood screen were destroyed. The original tower was struck by lightning in the C18 and was later replaced by a clapboard belfry which now houses just one bell…although I believe at one time there might have been three bells.




clapboard belfry


The poor church even had it’s East end blown out during the severe East Anglia gales in 1987!

St Mary’s is idyllically situated in a small scattered village and is found down a warren of country lanes.(not an easy place to find for a stranger to the area) It is still in use to this day, mainly due to it’s generous benefactors past and present.
The porch door is Norman and the inner roof is of the arched brace and collar design from the 1400’s.
The font is C15 and octagonal in style. It looks well preserved, but it may have been restored in the 1870’s when it’s cover was added.
….The Victorian craftsmen made a wonderfully sympathetic job of bringing the church back to life with their restoration of the church. The beautiful reredos with paintings of eight saints on a gold background is a fine example of their work.

Above the reredos and placed on either side of the Altar are two lovely square pictures, one of the sower and the other of the reaper.... In front of the chancel  stands the Stuart pulpit.
The medieval piscina for washing the holy vessels, and the sedilla are still in situ.
 Set  into a perpendicular window in the church is a more recent circular piece of stained glass art. This was commissioned to celebrate the new Millennium and is  by Rachel Thomas, it depicts a  mother and child surrounded by contemporary village life.

….The older, mainly Victorian stained glass windows are of the more traditional style found in a church.  The remnants of the Victorian stained glass from the East window, were salvaged when the East End of the church blew down in 1987  and these have been reset  into the new East window.

Outside on the South side of St Mary’s I came across a blocked Priest’s door let into the chancel wall, with the trace of a scratch dial in the wall near it. There’s also a blocked Norman door on the Northern side of the church

On the day I visited there were swathes of beautiful tiny blue flowers blooming in abundance in the large churchyard which contains some unusual gravestones.

......This church may not have the prettiest exterior but nevertheless was a delight to explore.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Holy Trinity Church, Loddon







The large church of Holy Trinity is situated in the middle of the town, and reportedly the third church to be built on this site. It stands like an island surrounded by it’s vast graveyard. .The church was built in the late 1400’s and has some similarities to the magnificent church at Southwold in Suffolk. It’s tower and large porch was added in the early /mid C16… A statue of the Holy Trinity stands in a niche above the South porch door entrance…this statue had been discovered during the C19 restoration of the church
On entering the church the thing which first catches the eye is the C15 ‘seven sacrament’ Font with panels which have sadly been defaced – possibly late in the C16 before the puritan William Dowsing carried out orders to destroy all religious imagery, it stands on a base from a later date.








The Rood Screen would have undoubtedly looked splendid when first painted in the early C16 as it would have stretched across the full width of the church, but sadly only the dado remains, (the upper rood screen was removed in 1830)…this is fascinating as one of it’s remaining panels depicts the infamous martyrdom of St William of Norwich – a young boy who was alleged to have been sacrificed by the Jews of Norwich in 1144, although there is no real foundation to this story.
In the Lady Chapel is the imposing tomb of Lady Dionysis Williamson who died in 1684. She had been one of the largest donators to rebuilding St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great fire of London in 1666.
There are many brasses and monuments to the Hobart family in the church, they were benefactors of Holy Trinity during C14 and C15 ….In the Sanctuary there is a large decorated tomb of Sir James Hobart (d.1615 and his wife Frances (d 1609) 
There’s also a stained glass window in the Lady Chapel dedicated to the Hobart family, it commemorates the 500th anniversary of the building of the church built by the first Sir James Hobart



Portrait of Sir James Hobart and his wife who built the church c1492

                       
                             Nave...    

The pulpit dates from 1631 and mounted on a base from a much later date.
… the beautiful East window was installed in the middle of the C19

Over the tower arch on the West wall hangs a picture of the Royal
Arms of George 1                           

On the outside of the church at the base of the West tower are two graves, believed to be the graves of two workmen who fell to their death when restoring the tower.
This is lovely welcoming church to visit and has many interesting graves to peruse in the churchyard.




Thursday, 23 January 2014

The church of St Mary the Virgin, Blundeston

There has been a church in Blundeston village since the 7th century….a lovely  church in a charming village.
I’ve paid a few visits here as the church has such a welcoming feel to it, and although set on the roadside, it has fields surrounding it.
…Blundeston village is the one which Charles Dickens portrayed in the opening chapters of his book  ‘David Copperfield’.

     
                                                              Nothing remains of this original church apart from the flint tower which was built in the year 988. A small church was built and adjoined to the tower about a century later….Of this church there is only the font and the Northern doorway which remain.

A later church was erected in it’s place in the 14th century and it’s nave had fine woodwork and tracery added to it a hundred years later.


The font is Norman and originally square but was altered in the 15th century to make it the preferred octagonal shape of that time.

Hardly any complete original 14th century pews exist, but when the church was restored in the 1850s new oak pews were made and sympathetically carved poppy heads fitted to them.

The lectern is in beautifully carved oak

The ceiling is Victorian and of timber barrel-design, which rests on 14th century corbel heads  of kings and queens, thought to be those of Henry 11, Queen Matilda and King Edmund of East Anglia and his Queen.
The chancel was rebuilt in 1851, as was the choir stalls….In the South wall of the chancel there is a 15th century piscina for rinsing the holy vessels
The High Altar is less than 100years old, dating from 1928,but it stands on the base of the original C14 Altar. It has golden angels on the riddel posts.
The oak communion table was constructed in 1613
 


The lower rood screen is from the late C15 and has paintings of the Angels of Passion upon it


The beautifully carved octagonal pulpit standing in front of the rood screen dates from 1886



The customary  holy water stoup stands by the porch door, and the coat of arms above the door is that of Charles 11.
The tower arch at the West end of the church although Norman is Saxon in style and is the oldest part of the church, - there is a squint hole in the wall alongside this arch.



Grotesque near base of inside wall near porch door.




These a just a few of the many interesting things in this church -  it's a delightful place for contemplation.