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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk

St Mary, Ashby St Mary

Ashby St Mary

Thomas Badley Norman doorway skull, foliage, crossed bones, spade, pick

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St Mary, Ashby St Mary

After the wilds of the marshland, Ashby is a comfortable little place, the tall 15th Century tower and long low body of the Norman church below oddly mismatched beside the village street, each accentuating the proportions of the other. A memorial stone set in the south wall of the nave tells us that Thomas Badley departed this life the seaventh day of August in the yeare of our Lord God 1697 aged 40 yeare, the conventional skull and fronds at the top given dignity by the setting within a line of red brick.

Stepping into the porch reveals the surprise of a magnificent Norman south doorway, likely the work of the same master mason as at nearby Heckingham. Norman doorways are common in this part of Norfolk, but these are two of the best of them I think. The windows of the Norman nave you step into were replaced with Perpendicular ones in the late medieval period, and how dark the interior must have been before this happened. The font is a curiosity, for as at neighbouring Thurton it is a late 17th Century replacement, probably after the original was removed from the church during the Civil War and Commonwealth. Oddly, the apparently Jacobean font cover is a 19th Century replacement, and the Victorians were busy here wih tiled floors and dark woodwork. They also replaced the east window in the chancel with a smaller one (you can still see the jambs of the earlier one) so they may have detected a structural weakness there. The glass they left is unexciting, one of hundreds of reproductions of Holman Hunt's The Light of the World that appeared in churches in the last decades of that century.

More interestingly, a collected 17th roundel is a Flemish marriage glass, an angel holding shields depicting the crests of the two families and the inscription Deus Ambo 1604 ('God has joined, 1604') underneath. Another married couple are remembered outside in the churchyard at the other end of their journey together. George and Ann Basey are buried side by side as you might expect, but unusually the reliefs on their 1860s headstones depict the division of labour on their farm, George feeding his turkeys and Ann her geese, a lovely thing to find.

Simon Knott, November 2020

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looking east looking east font
angel holding shields for a marriage: deo ambo 1604 ('God has joined 1604') Light of the World Light of the World

Ann Basey with her geese George Basey with his turkeys

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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk