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St Mary, East Bradenham
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The aisles go right up to the western face of the tower, and the tower on this side is heavily buttressed, giving the building the appearance of a beast ready to pounce. Rather oddly, there are faint outlines of archways on three faces of the tower, which are very puzzling. There is something similar a few miles off at Holme Hale. It suggests that, at one time, this was a cruciform church; but that surely cannot be - the aisles are older than the church. Unless, of course, what we see today was a refashioning of an older tower.
One of the most striking features of the setting - striking because, thank God, it is so unusual in East Anglia - is that the graveyard appears almost entirely empty of headstones. On closer inspection, however, you can see that they have all been laid flat, so that the grass has crept over them, and the rain and frost have eroded the inscriptions. This act of vandalism was a common solution in the 1970s to the problems of motor mowers unable to fit between the gravestones. Thankfully, it happened rarely in Norfolk (although thousands of older headstones in the county were removed and often destroyed so that the grass could be cut more efficiently).
St Mary is a typical CCT church in that it has been cleared of old clutter, and allowed to be dusty in a kind of 18th century way. The brick pamment floors pass through elegant arcades under whitewashed walls, and the neat local carpentry of beamed roofs. The building is full of light from the clear glass in the nave windows. The only jarring note is the ugly 19th century furniture - how this building longs to be filled with 18th century box pews!
Simon Knott, July 2007
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