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

St Peter, Bramerton

Bramerton

Bramerton Bramerton

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St Peter, Bramerton

Here we are the the area south of Norwich in what is probably the greatest concentration of medieval churches in northern Europe. Many of them are small and unassuming, although of course not without interest. At Bramerton, the diminutive tower rises from within the west end of the nave - or has the nave been extended back to enfold it? The tower is older than the west end of the nave, and the western face of the tower seems to show an area which has been rebuilt. It is all a bit odd.

These little south Norfolk churches can be a little gloomy inside if they have coloured glass, and Bramerton was particularly so when I first visited it in early February 2005. Coming back in 2014 on a bright day in early summer I saw it quite differently, a small jewel-like interior, a medieval shell containing a 19th Century Tractarian church, entirely restored in the 1860s before conservation of anything medieval became a priority, but still lovely. The parish must have been very proud of it when they saw it transformed for the first time.

Once inside you can see that the spaces either side of the tower form transepts, and there are elaborate traceried altar squints from these transepts into the body of the nave. It seems intentional, and Pevsner thought it might be the result of a bequest to building work in the 1460s. The contemporary font between them has a blank-faced bowl, but a carved frieze hanging down from it. Was it never completed? Or was it intended that that it would be painted rather than carved?

The chancel with its austere reredos and deep windows overwhelms everything, typical of its date. The woodwork, was all renewed, but incorporates at least one old quality poppyhead, bearing two double-headed eagles back to back, and the top of the piece has a candle prick. The glass includes an 1870s memorial window by Ward & Hughes to Adelaide Mary Blake, and depicts her as Mary of Bethany seated listening at Christ's feet while he explains to her sister Martha that she is doing the right thing. Nearby is a memorial plaque placed in 1925 by Florence Nightingale Hardiman to members of her family, a reminder of the Victorian practice of naming children after virtuous figures of the age.

Simon Knott, November 2020

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looking east Adelaide Mary Blake as Mary of Bethany font
erected as a small tribute of affection big ears two birds back to back Adelaide Mary Blake as Mary of Bethany
Florence Nightingale Hardyman

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