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

St Swithin, Bintree

Bintree: elegant and adrift

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chancel tower porch all is revealed: the south transept

    St Swithin, Bintree
St Swithin   Central Norfolk's churches were awash in a sea of cow parsley. The image at the top of the page is typical of May 2006, but in fact this is an unusual view, taken from the far corner of the graveyard in a place nowhere ever goes - or, at least, no one had been for a while. There wasn't even a churchcrawler trail to follow, and so I had to battle my way through the undergrowth. The result is a fairly typical Norfolk church with a 14th century tower and some late Perpendicular windows, but in fact this does not show St Swithin in its true light at all.

No, for back on the road you can see that this elegant building, shoehorned into the tightness of its graveyard, has a long south transept, probably contemporary with the tower, and the chancel was taken down and rebuilt in truncated form in the 19th century. St Swithin is an almost L-shaped church, a curiosity.

The result is interesting, creating a series of spaces which unfold as you walk through the building, and all of them lit by some excellent late 19th and early 20th century glass. The great east window is by Alexander Gibbs, and is a gorgeous depiction, most unusual in style and arrangement. Sometimes it takes a bit of detective work to find the maker's mark, but there's no problems here - Mr Gibbs has signed it in a vibrant blue, telling you he fecit ('made it') and even giving his address in case you fancy putting a little bit of work his way.

  Blessed Virgin, Mary Cleophas and John at the Crucifixion a Roman centurion looks on Angels at the Crucifixion Crucifixion, by Alexander Gibbs

The glass in the transept is by William Wailes. It shows Christ the Good Shepherd and Christ with the little children flanking a central Christ in Majesty - well, these are common enough subjects, but again there is a distinction here, a feeling of quality, as there is with the nearby Annunciation scene.

The font is strange, perhaps the least symmetrical I've come across, and another curiosity is the Holy Trinity symbol in the sanctuary. It is dated 1664, just after the end of the Commonwealth, and was presumably an attempt to reassert orthodox Trinitarian doctrine after twenty years of the world being turned upside down with all manner of Unitarian sects.

Stranger still is the story told by Mortlock; Bintree was the parish in the 1890s of Father Enracht, who had been the last Priest imprisoned under late Victorian legislation aimed at preventing the introduction of ritual into Anglican churches. Amazingly, the processional cross still in use at Bintree is the very same one that had caused all the trouble.

  JAMES: Alexander Gibbs Fecit

Simon Knott, May 2006


looking east Christ x 3 Annunciation gable cross
the view west early 19th century chancel font unsymmetry Holy Trinity memorial 

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