As I write this post the timbers are still smouldering at Wimbotsham church in west Norfolk. This is the most recent of what seems to have been a rash of fires in medieval churches.
Wimbotsham church is essentially Norman in date with fine Romanesque doorways to north and south and built of the local Carrstone. The walls are characteristically thick. The tower was remodelled in the fifteenth century and contains two medieval bells. The chancel was substantially rebuilt in the 19th century, in keeping with the Romanesque character of the original. It carries a wonderful corbel table.
There were a wonderful set of bench ends in the church. A few were medieval but most were outstanding work by James Ratlee (born 1820) who is best known for his woodwork in Ely Cathedral.
Yesterday I spent a day with my old friend Simon Knott www.norfolkchurches.co.uk on an exploration of a circle of churches around Norwich. Here`s how we got on:
Trowse Newton - a village church immediately outside the inner ring road. A charming spot where we were given a warm welcome by the keyholder. The architecture is important - the east window being dateable to the 1280s but what struck us was the group of musicians around the pulpit. Almost life size they must have come from a continental church organ.
Earlham was locked with no keyholder notice. One for pre-arrangements another day.
Colney - a round towered church just inside the outer ring road. It contains one of the 30 or so chalice brasses for which Norwich is known and a fine East Anglian Type font which depicts the martyrdom of St Edmund.
Bawburgh is another round towered gem which is now open daily. Famous for its own saint, St Walstan, we were taken by the variety of monumental brasses and by the screen, loft and rood beam. We met the churchwarden who was very proud of her well cared for church.
Join John Vigar and Ian Groves for a tour of four medieval churches on the edge of the Halvergate Marshes in Norfolk and a discussion of the local villages and landscape.
The churches include many fascinating features such as two fine Norfolk fonts, surviving graffiti, an impressive rood screen and a remarkable set of 20th century stained glass windows. Two of the churches stand in the same churchyard - a phenomenon that can be seen in several locations around the county.
These magnificent buildings should provide stimulating conversation among attendees and the tour leaders. The day is particularly aimed at those who would like to improve their knowledge of Norfolk's churches. During the tour you will also discover how the use of churches changed over time and the importance of patronage to the way churches looked, the church in relation to its village and wider landscape, and the historic background to the extensive grazing land between Acle and Great Yarmouth.
Please arrive at Acle St Edmund church (on-street parking only) for 10:45
I first became interested in these unique memorials when I found the indent of one in a ledgerstone at Oulton. An indent is where the brass has gone but the shape remains. I have now recorded over 20 of these memorials in Norfolk, and realise they cover just a 30 year period. The image above is of one in St Giles Church, Norwich which is the oldest I`ve yet discovered, 1499.
Each one is to a priest, and usually their names are quite readable. Even when the brass has disappeared the shape gives it away. They must have been made by one workshop - presumably in Norwich - and they are distributed across the eastern half of the county. They are all very similar, with minor variations of the style of chalice.
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Sadly, I have decided to give up arranging my public church day tours. I have been running these for over 30 years. They have been thoroughly enjoyable and I have met many interesting people along the way. These tours take a huge amount of organ...