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Sunday, 1 June 2014

St John the Baptist, Hellington


 It was wonderful to come across an abandoned church hiding in it’s overgrown graveyard….

Not long ago I was driving through Norfolk and came across this evocative church of St John which is set high on a small hill, and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
      
The South porch is an unusual striking feature of the church. The large ogee shaped arches in it’s East and West walls are void of any windows. In fact they look almost like a colonnade. I personally have never seen a church porch like this anywhere else. It’s structure seems taller than most and is most definitely narrower – so narrow that it had to be abutted over part of (and spoil) the Norman arch on both sides of the lovely medieval South church door..It’s known this porch was in situ before 1820 but I’m afraid to my eye it doesn’t look right and is not to my personal taste.


                 

                           
The interior of St John’s is spartan, as you would expect in an abandoned church,  but it’s evocative in it’s simplicity. It has many curious details including the chancel arch capitals which are very elaborate  The chancel is a much lighter place than the nave, and there remain clues that the rood screen was once under the chancel/nave  arch - I wonder why this screen was later moved further up into the chancel…..just another of the mysteries of this little church.

 Major repairs were done to the church in the late C17 after Puritan rule ended, so maybe this is when the rood screen was moved. Other church restoration and repairs were carried out at various times during the C19


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                                     pulpit


       




 There is an original C14 double piscina and sedilla  in the chancel/sanctuary, and the chancel windows also look to be C14



Ornate South door ...you can see where the brickwork of the porch has encroached over the lovely Norman arch on each side.

The north door of the church is also Norman but not as ornate as the south door.

Of course the graveyard is now mostly overgrown, but it was a joy for me to wander round - attired in wellington boots to protect against the long wet grass and brambles.
.....Old gravestones can tell some fascinating stories.


NB       As an afterthought, I wonder if it was at the behest of a wealthy land owner at the time that this unusual church porch was built…I must dig deep into the records to sate my curiosity.
I intend to return here for another visit when hopefully the grass will be dry in the graveyard and I can have a good snoop around.

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