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St Mary, Earlham, Norwich
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St Mary is a non-identical twin to round-towered St Andrew at Colney, half a mile or so further up the Earlham Road. Both sit to the north of the traffic, looking rather beleaguered and, apparently, helpless in the hollow of an unarmorial age. But I had just come from friendly Colney, where I had found the church to be warm and welcoming, obviously well-loved and very well cared for. I was hoping for something similar here.
How disappointing. Earlham church is set opposite beautiful Earlham Park, beloved of generations of Norwich citizens, and not far from the main entrance to the campus of the University of East Anglia with its nationally important Sainsbury Arts Centre. Thousands of people must pass this church every day. And yet it is kept locked without a keyholder, and sulks miserably in its unkempt churchyard, a feeling of shabbiness and abandonment beginning to take hold. I could see a noticeboard up behind the grill, and, thinking it might give details of the key, I strode with some optimism up the path. But, behind the padlock, it turned out to be a sign telling you who to contact to discuss the possibility of getting married in the church. I could not think of anything less enticing, or anything more likely to tip people into choosing a secular ceremony instead.
Simon Knott, May 2010
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