Thursday, 1 February 2018

The church of St Michael, Oulton Broad

This church is an outpost of Suffolk, standing adjacent to the marshes which stretch into Norfolk.
From the outside it is not the prettiest of churches. It is unusual with having it’s tower in the middle of the church between chancel and nave

St Michael’s is usually kept locked, due to local teenagers frequently racing their bicycles around the churchyard paths, and the fear is for damage to the inside of the church to take place if it was left open. We were very fortunate on the day we decided to visit as one of the groundsmen was busy at work, and seeing we were interested in the fabric of the church asked if we would like to take a look inside and produced a key for us.
A feeling of warmth and friendliness greeted us as we entered through the priest’s door into the chancel …not even the grotesque above the door could manage to deter us.

The church is larger inside than it appears from the outside.

Two replica brasses lie in front of the altar, The original brasses were either lost or stolen when St Michaels was restored in 1857. The larger of the two brasses from 1318 is for Adam Bacon and the other one which dates from 1445 is for John Fastolf and his wife.

 Fortunately someone had already taken brass rubbings of the originals and therefore copies were easy to duplicate. I was pleased to see two framed notices nearby which relates the history of these people.

In the chancel is a nice decorated piscina and dropped-sill sedilia.

The oak reredos added in 1951 has painted Decologue panels

 Above the chancel wall hang a quite rare Royal Arms of James ll 
On a table in the nave sits a small set of wooden bells fashioned from the old bell frame of 1540

The rood stair doors are in situ, also a door above the chancel arch which led from the rood loft into the tower
A West gallery was added in the church in 1836
The C15 font is in fine condition 

Unusually the belfry is situated in the middle of the church

The large nave windows are made up of plain glass apart from the small top central pane in each window which contains stained glass
The South entrance door has a plain Norman door arch containing just one single row of chevron moulding 

Outside on the East wall can be seen large carved initials CKF  - whether this is early graffiti or a stone mason’s mark, I don’t know

This church has one of the nicer graveyards, not only is it kept impeccably, but it looks out across a  picturesque view toward  Oulton Broad marshes.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

St Mary's church, Homersfield

(This church is also sometimes known as the church of St Mary, South Elmham)

Fortunately there’s a sign at the bottom of a narrow lane or you’d pass by this church, as it stands in a wooded area and hidden from sight behind houses.
 It is situated on the Suffolk/Norfolk border

Although it has quite an impressive exterior the inside of the church is less exciting

It is plain and simple with it’s walls empty of any  family memorial plaques, apart from one large  picture of the Nativity on the nave’s north wall which is badly in need of cleaning, and a small picture on the south wall which is a print of the Virgin Mary taken from a work by the C15 Italian artist Filippo Lippi – again this would also benefit from cleaning. I didn’t take a photograph of either of these as they were too dirty for the details to have shown up.

Almost everything in this church appears to have been renewed by the Victorians.

The C19 plain arcaded font  is a copy in style of some of the Norman square fonts

                   Font cover >>

I really liked the double piscina in the Sanctuary 

Two Decalogue panels hang on either side of the East window which contains plain green stained glass

There is a nice Norman slit window in the south wall of the nave. (My favourite part of the church) 

It was pleasing to see an old oil lamp on the nave wall

There is an old priests door in the chancel which is worth viewing.

The wooden lectern of an eagle with outspread wings is C20 

The extended churchyard is pleasant to walk round, and I noticed inside of the church there was a booklet which contains all the grave numbers, which would certainly be very useful for anyone searching for a particular grave

There’s nothing pretentious about this simple church, it is an everyday church ideal for country worship.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

South Elmham..the church of St Michael

We had to turn into a short gravelled track to reach this tiny country church. At first sight it looked very run-down, with the outside rendering  falling away from the church walls, and the graveyard being overgrown….apart from the grass path immediately around the church the rest looked quite unkempt and it was impossible to reach some of the stones to read them

The East side of the church is heavily buttressed with a solitary gravestone standing in front of the East window – sadly this was too weathered to read the inscription on it.
The roof of the church once thatched now has a covering of tiles.

There is a restored sundial on the South wall of the nave near the late C15 porch.

…this porch protects the C12 church doorway with it’s fine Norman moldings.

On entering into the nave one is faced with a fine C15 font with angels and lions around it’s bowl…this style is often seen in East Anglia

The lovely brick floor of the nave aisle leads us to the chancel where the East window contains clear glass (as do the other windows in the church)

 It appears the East window used to contain stained glass until 1940 when a nearby bombing raid blew the glass out. 

The only ledgerstone I could find here lies in the aisle floor and is for Robert Chase and his wife Elizabeth and dated the mid C19

The pulpit is possibly C18 and has some lovely stairs leading up to it

The finely painted reredos behind the altar was painted by Albert Lemmon (1889-1963) it portrays St Felix and St Fursey on either side of St Michael

In the South wall of the chancel, situated between the piscina and a priest’s door is a large blocked up window – it is most unusual to find such a large deep window in this particular position

Oil lamp and candle holders are placed around the church and are evidently still in use, as are the oil lamps which hang down into the nave.

St Michael’s is the only *Thankful Parish* in Suffolk – thankful because all of the eleven men from this tiny village who served in the first World War returned home safely….hence no need for a village WW1 war memorial here.

This is a very unpretentious simple church in keeping with it’s countryside surroundings.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

All Saints and St Margaret church. Pakefield

Two into one will go...

This thatched roof church started out in early medieval times as two separate churches, joined by one central nave wall - the same as we see today’s semi-detached houses.
The story goes, that two wealthy landowners from neighbouring parishes wanted to have their own church built over a large sarcen stone, which was a relic from the Ice Age…these stones had been used as pagan altars. Compromise was reached when they decided to build two churches with one dividing wall between - this wall is supposedly built over the pagan stone,
.Over the centuries the arches in this wall have been opened up and closed many times, depending on whether there was just one priest overseeing both churches, or a priest for each church. Finally in 1748 the two churches permanently became one when the dividing wall arches were opened up for the last time. The church has since been known as All Saints & St Margaret’s
It must have been an awkward situation to have two adjoining churches having services taking place at the same time

It seemed so unusual to enter a small church which has two naves, two chancels and two altars, but sharing the same tower, but it all comes together beautifully.
St Margaret’s is on the left side of the church as you face the East, and All Saints on the right. I know some people  think St Margaret’s might be a Lady chapel to All Saints, but this is incorrect, as St Margaret’s is a church in it’s own right, but All Saints is the side of these two united churches which is used most frequently.

 All Saints had a beautiful C19 East window until as recently as December 2013..when very high winds and storms which played havoc with the coastline damaged this window, causing the window to be bordered up while waiting for a new one to be  made to replace it.

The C14 font stands at the West end of the church, where the two churches meet.

One of the hazards for  this church standing on a cliff edge - it takes the full force of the North  Easterly gales blowing in off the sea 

On the walls of  St Margaret’s side of the church is a brass dating from 1417 for John and Agnes Bowf with their two sons and nine daughters. This brass has been moved to it’s present position to prevent further damage to it.
Lying in front of St Margaret’s altar is the gravestone of Philip Richardson dated 1748 – he was the last priest in charge of both churches before they were united.

In 1949 the C14 East window on St Margaret’s side of the church was filled in to prevent damage caused by it’s falling tracery, it was thought to be unsafe after two incendiary bombs fell and badly damaged the church during WW2.

The present organ built in 1952  replaced the earlier war damaged one, and it stands in front of this built in window, and behind St Margaret’s altar.

Near the North door is a square hole which goes through the full thickness of the church wall, each end is covered in glass. This hole held a horizontal beam which supported scaffolding when the wall of the church was being built.

All Saints was extended in the C15 and a crypt now lies beneath the sanctuary which had to have it's floor raised to accommodate the room below.
<< showing air vents to the crypt

The modern altar of All Saints seems rather austere

A wooden rood screen stretches from one side of St Margaret’s to the far side of All Saints…As you can see from the picture below St Margaret’s side of the church took the full force of the falling incendiary bombs      
                      St Margaret's screen      All Saints screen

In the West wall, near the tower and to the left of the belfry door are stone steps which lead to a room, probably used for contemplation, and around the back of the church is an ancient stone bench seat. In medieval times this bench was for the use of the aged and infirm, the rest of the congregation had to stand or kneel during services
….Hence the old adage “the weakest shall go to the wall”

The Royal Arms of Charles 11 (1681) hangs on the West wall, but apparently it’s colours aren’t correct! (perhaps through dodgy pigment or maybe just an ill informed  artist)

This is a building which has come through much adversity, and it stands as a silent witness to the people who have faith in the church.
It’s a really pleasant church to visit, it’s so light and airy and has a warm welcoming atmosphere….even the sheep who graze in it's churchyard seem content with the world
Thankfully now with better sea defences this church should no longer worry - at least not for a long time - of the encroaching sea taking it prisoner, as it has with so many churches along this stretch of coastline.