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

St Mary, East Carleton

East Carleton: attractive

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crisp 19th century work triple lancets echo from the north-east

    St Mary, East Carleton
Charity   East Carleton is a straggle of close houses on the road to nowhere, like a skein of Norwich suburbia adrift on the edge of the Ketteringham Hall estate some eight miles from the City Hall; but the church of St Mary backs on to fields and copses, and is attractive in its small graveyard. Although, like nearby Bracon Ash, it is at heart an Early English building with some late medieval remodelling, St Mary now is almost wholly the work of the 19th century, the nave and chancel redone in the 1880s and the tower rebuilt in the 1890s. Everything is crisp and clean, and there are a few older survivals discernible in the walls. Coming back here in Open Churches Week 2010 was unfinished business, because on my previous two visits the keyholders had both been out. Thus, it was a pleasure to step into this pleasant and well-kept building, which, although of no great historical significance, is a nice place to visit and which deserves to be better known. Unfortunately, St Mary is still kept locked, in an area of generally more remote yet better-known churches which are kept open, although there is still a keyholder notice, of course.

As you approach the church, you might notice a low wall in the second graveyard on the other side of a private roadway. This is all that is left of the second East Carleton church of St Peter. Beyond, in the graveyard, is a rather elaborate memorial which must have had its ironwork removed during WWII. The pillars are now sinking into the soft ground, and it would be nice to think that it could be restored while it is still salvageable.

The porch, which was built in the early years of the 20th Century, is a pleasing feature, the windows showing design poised on the point of becoming Art Deco. It protects the southern doorway, which Pevsner noted was the single unrestored feature of the church. However, it is not the only medieval survival, as we shall see inside. The interior is as you might expect from outside, a crisp and fairly middle-brow restoration of the 1880s, but it is a good example of what could be done on a small scale by a rural parish where the pennies had to be counted. It has been very well cared for since. The north aisle is, perhaps surprisingly, rebuilt on the outline of a medieval predecessor.

At the west end, the brickwork in the top of the tower arch is exposed, and is of the 16th century, an unusual date, suggesting a late rebuilding in this rural backwater. The font is a narrow, rather urban 15th century piece, looking quite at home in its Victorian surroundings. The church retains its WWI roll of honour, proudly displayed near to the War Memorial.

The best glass is the representation of Charity and Faith by Powell & Son, the figures conflated into a single panel by the device of the elder child of Charity holding the cross of Faith. The most interesting panel is a hexagonal lozenge in the chancel which is a composite of a medieval head of Christ and modern coloured glass. A modern roundel beside it depicts the monogram AM with a sword. Reset in the 19th Century floors are a couple of good ledger stones of the late 17th century, both inscribed with skulls, and one of them nagging us Hodie Mihi Cras Tibi - today this is mine, but tomorrow it will be yours.


Simon Knott, February 2011

font looking east tower arch
head of Christ Hodie Mihi, Cras Tibi AM
Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word Faith Faith and Charity Mary of Bethany
WWI roll of honour Richard Watson porch window


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