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

St Mary, Burnham Westgate
(Burnham Market)

Burnham Westgate

Burnham Westgate tower parapet (west and south)

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St Mary, Burnham Westgate

There are six Burnham churches, but St Mary sits at the western end of Burnham Market high street, and has become the main parish church of this attractive little town. During the course of the centuries, the parishes of Burnham Sutton, Burnham Ulph and Burnham Westgate had grown together, and a market was established. Burnham Sutton church was largely demolished in the 18th Century, the parish having been long consolidated with that of Burnham Ulph, and the parish church of Burnham Ulph sits at the other end of the high street to Burnham Westgate's church.

This is not a large church, but the long chancel distracts the eye from the otherwise typical East Anglian tower, aisles and clerestory. The tower buttresses are not delicate, but are impressive. The most memorable thing about the church is probably the parapet to the tower. The result of a bequest by William Lexham in 1500, it is a procession of saints, biblical scenes and legends around all four sides of the tower. For example, the west side features, from left to right, a servant bringing the head of St John the Baptist on a plate to Salome and Herod sitting at a table, St Peter, St Andrew, St John, St James, and then armed knights moving to kill St Thomas of Canterbury as he says Mass. It would be true to say that it is the best of its kind in East Anglia, though it is so unusual that there isn't really much competition.

parapet (west)

You step inside to what is at present a fairly typical and urban late 19th Century interior, the work of Frederick Preedy who was particularly busy restoring churches in this part of Norfolk in the 1870s. Pevsner's description of the restoration here as over-renewed might apply to many of them. Preedy rarely went off-piste, preferring to accommodate churches to his broadly correct vision of the late 14th and 15th Centuries, despite his enthusiasm for ceremic tiles. But it is rarely a happy result at this distance in time. I say at present, for there are plans to remove Preedy's furnishings here and replace them with modern chairs, and in any case this church escaped being enclosed in a circle of dour late 19th Century glass. There is one window of Preedy's which is good of its kind, depicting in roundels the Parable of the Sower. But the best glass is in the east window, Arthur Erridge's 1950s depiction of the Blessed Virgin and Christchild. Did it replace older glass blown out by Second World War blast damage, I wonder?

Simon Knott, May 2022

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looking east cleric? c1300
Blessed Virgin and Christchild (Arthur Erridge, c1950) Blessed Virgin and Christchild (Arthur Erridge, c1950) Child of Charity (Henry Holiday c1870) Faith and Charity (Henry Holiday, c1870)

Burnham Deepdale - Burnham Norton - Burnham Overy - Burnham Sutton - Burnham Thorpe - Burnham Ulph - Burnham Westgate

   
   
               
                 

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