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

All Saints, Chedgrave

Chedgrave - a curious assemblage

Read the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to see them enlarged.
Chedgrave Norman south doorway Chedgrave
The 1990s eastward extension From the south. |From left to right, a journey from the 20th century to the 12th. All very curious

    All Saints, Chedgrave
St John   Chedgrave is the north side of the town of Loddon, the bit over the river - and it has to be said that the riverside apartments are tremendous. Domestic housing of style and significance is a feature of the Loddon area, thanks to the work here in the 1950s and 1960s by the internationally important architects Herbert Tayler and David Green on behalf of Loddon Rural District Council. Unfortunately, of course, much of their work is now in private hands, and the original features have been replaced by upvc windows and doors. The selling off of council houses was by no means Thatcherism's worst crime, but in this case we have lost the integrity of some super buildings - Loddon even represented Great Britain in international architecture exhibitions at the time, and local authority architects travelled from Warsaw and Paris to look at their work. By the time you get up to the top road, however, the housing is fairly mundane, and here is All Saints, right on the edge of town.

I first visited All Saints in the early days of the site, and was a bit grumpy about not being able to get in. Soon after that, people told me that it was now open every day, but I am afraid that it has taken me four and a half years to get back to this part of Norfolk. As we approached the porch a nice lady popped up her head from flower arranging on a grave and said "Oh do go and look inside the church, it is open!" which was nice.

What a strange building this is! For a moment, it is difficult to read. The 1990s extension westwards of the north aisle is drastic. As Bill Wilson, Pevsner's revising editor, says, it is like a two-storey house hitting you in the face. It would be a shame if all churches looked the same, of course. Curiously, when they were laying the foundations for the extension they discovered the remains of a western round tower, but today the only medieval tower is to be found to the north of the chancel; this was substantially restored by the Victorians, but the nave to the west of it is certainly Norman, as you can tell by the doorways. The Georgians built a brick north aisle stretching back from the tower. Pevsner suggests that the tower is in fact a heightened north transept from the 12th century, but I don't think this is so. I suspect it was built on firmer ground to replace a round tower which was subsiding, probably in the 12th Century.

The fine Norman doorway sheltered by the porch contains a door labelled 1819 in ironwork Roman numerals, which is a nice touch. A faded plaque tells us that this church was repaired and beautified AD 1819, a date which would explain the pleasingly un-ecclesiological feel to the interior. Given the lack of windows, All Saints is surprisingly full of light. The eye is drawn eastwards to the collection of continental glass, mainly of the 16th and 17th Centuries. In a memorable scene, St Paul and St Peter appear to St Dominic and help him to interpret scripture, while the Blessed Virgin and Christ child send down inspiration from above. The glass is part of the collection made by John Hampp for the Beauchamp Proctor family of Langley Hall, and seems to have come mainly from Rouen Cathedral in the years after the French Revolution. There is more of it at Thurton and Langley. I assume that it was all set in place by Samuel Yarrington, the famous Lowestoft glassmaker, as part of the 1819 restoration, but the King workshop restored it all again in the 1960s.

The font is a fairly run-of-the-mill recut late medieval bowl with angels holding shields, set on a 19th Century base. Can it really have come from St Julian's church in Norwich, as Pevsner suggests? The font there, of course, came from the redundant church of All Saints nearer to the centre of the city. The chancel is beautifully arranged, with curving communion rails on a raised dias.

Most unusually, there are more names on the Second Wolrd War memorial here than there are on the First World War memorial. One possibility is that the memorial for the first war only included the names of people who were members of the Church of England. This sounds shocking, but evidence for this has been found for war memorials in a number of East Anglian churches, and it may well be so here.


Simon Knott, January 2005, update July 2009


looking east looking west chancel proud memory
Annunciation WWI memorial skull and crossed bones this church repaired and beautified angel blowing a trumpet
glass from Rouen Cathedral The Blessed Virgin, St Paul and St Peter appear to St Dominic glass from Rouen Cathedral Henry Webster hymns window


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