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Sunday, 24 May 2015

St Mary the Virgin, Aldeby

                             …originally this was a priory church.
The peaceful parish of Aldeby reminds me of an outpost almost lost in time, surrounded by water on three sides – the river Waveney and the North Sea.. It’s difficult to imagine what this place must have looked like a thousand years ago when the area was a populous place.
This C12 church began life for an order of Benedictine monks., their abbey which was adjacent to the church was dissolved in 1538 and left to become ruinous. A farm now stands in what was the abbey grounds, with few signs of the abbey which went before
The church was also used by the public as well as the monks between 1100-1538 – the public enjoyed the use of the nave while the monks monopolised the chancel.
Standing at the West end of the church and looking East through the lovely transept arches to the East window gives the impression of extra height and length to the church, especially with it’s white plastered ceiling.

Walking up to the church the first thing which caught my eye was the splendid West C12 Norman door with it’s three shafts on either side and lovely capitals.

…but entrance into the church is through the pleasing C14 North porch

Inside there’s a handsome C15 font with octagonal bowl and decorated with roses and shields. I think it’s cover might be Jacobean.

The chancel being somewhat darker than the nave gives the simple Sanctuary a serene atmosphere, and displays the lovely 1888 stained glass East window to perfection.
There is a fine piscina and sedilla in the Sanctuary which are survivors from the early priory days.

The north transept used to be a chapel (dedicated to St Fursey) but this is no longer in use.

An old ledgerstone dated 1652  for Thomasine Trott made my visit complete…such a great name!

. Sadly some parts of the churchyard could do with some tender loving care.

                      The Celtic Cross war memorial  >>

Sunday, 17 May 2015

St Mary's church, Haddiscoe

St Mary’s is one of the very few Saxon church buildings with it’s tall round tower, nave and small chancel with it’s square east end still remaining.. It stands on high ground so is easily seen from a distance.

    North door  >>

 The C13 South doorway is still in a good state of preservation and there is a wonderful Norman Sculpture above the door, this depicts a seated priest with hands outstretched and with what is possibly a dove overhead…..This to me was the highlight of my visit to the church – such lovely workmanship..... A C15  porch was built around this church’s south. entrance

 The North aisle is C13

clerestory windows >

There remains a double C13 piscina in the south wall of the chancel…this was for the purpose of washing the Holy vessels.

I believe the arch over the chancel to be C14…This church has had many additions and restoration work over the centuries, but a few remnants of early medieval wall paintings are still in evidence  >>

 One of the church’s most interesting ledger stones lies in the floor of the Nave. It bears the Dutch inscription  (translation )“In Memory of Bele daughter of John and wife of Peter the Dykegraft who died 2nd December 1525” …It was about this time that many Dutch drainage experts came across from Holland to the East Coast of Britain to assist in our land reclamation.

 There is an early medieval stoup just inside the church by the porch door, for the people to wash their hands on entering the church. (Nowadays in medieval churches one often sees a vase of flowers or even a small statue standing in them)
                      Fine corbel heads are still in good condition

The C15 font, made in Norfolk is of typical late medieval East Anglia design

I suggest for anyone wishing to visit St Mary’s, it may be best to appreciate it fully by going on a bright sunny day, not as I did when rain was falling, as the interior can seem a little gloomy.
On the day I visited the church I found the churchyard verdant and overgrown, but as the church is still in use I imagine someone cuts the grass down occasionally.

While making a way through the tangled wet grass I found an interesting epitaph set into the outside of the South wall of the church, it was to a William Slater who was a coachman in the C18 and who met an untimely death in a coach crash on what used to be the Norwich Turnpike. ...It was uplifting to find a memorial to one of the ‘common’ people.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Sisland

What a charming little church this is, but so easy to miss down a remote narrow country lane. It is a whitewashed building with a thatched roof and clapperboard belfry, which is topped by a squirrel weather vane
…. It appears a severe storm so badly damaged the church in 1761 that much of it had to be rebuilt.
Some flint wall ruins of a C14 chapel can be seen on the outer north wall

Most of the church was rebuilt from 1761 onward


Apart from an original window in the porch all the other windows in the church are C18

         <<   porch window   

…Turning East from the small porch into the nave, one is faced with a long narrow room, it reminded me of a village hall, it is so bright and welcoming.

The West gallery from the 1760’s rebuilding of the church houses the organ

The typical C15 East Anglian style font with it’s decoration of lions, flowers and angels  remains from the earlier church, although it’s has received a certain amount of damage over the years.

The gloriously golden framed East window is simple in design with painted glass of the Holy Spirit and SS Peter and Paul holding their symbols of a key (St Peter) and a sword (St Paul)

East window and decalogue
boards above Altar table  >>

The pews and pulpit are C18 …the old box pews were in use until 1936

<<   Pulpit

The small churchyard is given over to the conservation of wildlife, and although to the visitor it looks overgrown, it is managed twice yearly to facilitate and encourage all types of wildlife.

Considering this is one of the smallest churches still in use that I’ve visited, I was astonished to see the amount of literature and information available in the church.
St Mary’s is a credit to the parishioners of Sisland who have kept this church alive.

It is a delightful picturesque church standing in a garden of tranquillity.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Burgh Castle, church of St Peter & St Paul

This church can be found down a narrow road and adjacent to the entrance to a Roman fort. There are some nice trees in the churchyard. The round tower which was started in the C11 continued with brickwork in C17, and is topped by sturdy battlements.
Fragments of Roman bricks from the nearby C3 fort can be seen in the brickwork of the church 
  On the day I visited I found the church in the process of renovation, which looks like being a long on-going job…I could see from what has already been achieved in the C19 North aisle, it’s taking shape nicely with good workmanship throughout.
      This may only be a small church but as you pass through the open door you feel arms enfolding you in a big welcome.
The South porch was rebuilt in 1858 and the original thatched roof replaced in 1851 with stone slabs, which again were replaced in 2000 with slate tiles

Just inside the nave on the South wall, to the East of the entrance is a niche which  housed a Holy water stoop... and a  typical East Anglian C14 Lion font adorned with shields and emblems stands facing just through the door

The North aisle was a mid C19 addition to the C14 church – The North wall of the
nave was demolished and an arcade was built between the existing nave and the new aisle.
At the West end of this aisle a tall C13 grave slab has been fixed to the wall, the floriated cross on it’s lid signifies it must have belonged to the tomb of a  high Ecclesiastic, possibly a prior from the Priory in a neighbouring parish (1273-1530)

…Also clamped to the same wall in the North aisle is an ancient beam which has survived through two fires over the centuries – hopefully it is now in it’s final safe resting place.

There's a fine display of stained glass windows  (C19?)

The stairway which once led to an upper Rood loft is still in situ.

The East window was erected as a memorial to the Rev Charles Green who was Rector here from 1829-1857
The oak Reredos below, is from 1853  >>>

Other mid C19 alterations included the addition of oak pew benches with poppy head finials, and the insertion of the oak Communion rails.
....In the South wall of the Sanctuary is a well preserved piscina where the holy vessels were washed.

A fine Celtic Cross in the churchyard which is dedicated to St Fursey and erected in 1897 by Canon Venables >>>

The oldest gravestone in the churchyard is for a twelve month old baby girl named Barbery Anquish, she died and was reportedly buried on the same day 10th May 1704.

NB …The vast majority of round towered churches are to be found in Norfolk and Suffolk, the reason being, this was an area which didn’t produce any of the dressed stone which was used to fashion corners on a church tower.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Church of St Margaret, Lowestoft

This has to be one of the most loveliest of large churches to visit.. It stands on high ground away from the town centre and is the main parish church of Lowestoft…A large and impressive building, it’s approached via it’s lych-gate
. The present church dates from the mid/late C13, but had good restoration work done in the C19..
The height of the tower was extended and a slim spire added in the C15.

It has a large double storey South porch with chequerwork  along the base course and decorative flushwork panels to it’s fa├žade…three small statues stand in niches around the archway. They are (L-R) St Felix, St Margaret and Herbert de Losing, Bishop of Norwich
The top storey of the porch was used as a cell for two anchoress sisters to live in….It is now known as “The Maids Chamber”
            As you enter the nave your eye is drawn to the C14 font which was defaced by the puritans but has a glorious 1940’s gilded cover

Just in front of the font there’s a wonderful wooden chest from the 1600s

The nave is a vast space with charming arcades

It has a splendid 1890s reconstructed roof, painted deep red with much gilt work …gilded angels were added to the hammer-beams to provide an extra decorative touch.

With no chancel arch to separate the nave from the spacious C19 chancel the length of the church looks enormous

At the rear of the church there’s a huge banner store- quite the tallest I’ve ever come across.

There are some lovely stained glass windows in the north aisle

…and below them stretches a long wooden memorial plaque naming fishermen from along this coast who have lost their lives

… there’s also a long commemorative plaque to the soldiers from WW1 which lines the north wall of the north aisle Sanctuary

...and a poignant family plaque >>

The church possesses a splendid rare medieval brass lectern from 1504

The high Altar has riddel posts with Angels holding candles

A lovely ceremonial cross stands below the altar

There are some interesting ledgerstones

This must have been a compassionate man ...  >>

..and the last remaining brass in the church

I found the vast churchyard fascinating…It holds many enormous tombstones from the !8th and 19th centuries – there must have been some very wealthy inhabitants in the town in those days, there’s even one “ordinary” headstone which stands over nine feet tall.