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

All Saints, Foulden

Foulden

Foulden Foulden

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All Saints, Foulden

All Saints is a rough and ready church, set in the main street with bungalows and a garage for company. I liked it a lot for this. It made it seem real, and more vital. It reminded me of villages in western France. It must have been a big church once, but the tower collapsed in the 18th Century. Enough survived for Ladbroke to draw in the 1820s, and in 1855 White's Directory could report that the tower is an ivy-mantled ruin, but the rest of the fabric, after being long in a dilapidated state, has recently been thoroughly repaired. This tells us that the 19th Century restoration of All Saints was an early one, and probably explains the patched up feel to the west end - twenty years later, it would probably have been rebuilt. No remains of the fallen tower survive today. A curiosity on the outside south wall of the nave is a cusped tomb recess, said to be variously that of Roger Weyland or Sir John de Crake, supposed founder of the church.

The overwhelming late 13th and early 14th Century character of the exterior is reminiscent of that at neighbouring Gooderstone, and the interior also has a similar feel to the church there, although the old brick floors here were not tiled by the Victorians. Rising from them is an interesting 15th Century screen dado, probably by the same artist as that at Gooderstone. Several figures still hide behind the tarrish brown paint applied by the Anglican iconoclasts in the 16th Century, a reminder that at one time virtually all screen figures were hidden from sight, although as usual they had their faces scratched out before they wwere covered. Indeed, William Dowsing, the puritan iconoclast of a century later, did not record in his journal seeing a single image of a figure on a screen during his progress through several hundred churches in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, even though quite a number of the churches he inspected have medieval rood screen figures today.

St Mark and St Matthew (15th Century) rood screen gates with the four Evangelists
St Mark and St Matthew St Mark's lion (15th Century) St Augustine crowned Saint

The most striking figures on the Foulden screen are the four Evangelists on the gates. St Matthew and St Mark on the northern gate have been restored. St John and St Luke on the other have not, but are still discernible. St Matthew looks up in apparent surprise as an angel delivers to him the opening words of his Gospel on a scroll, and St Mark's lion sprawls lazily at the Evangelist's feet. As is common in the iconography of the time, the four are given wings, but they are not angels as is recorded in some sources. The north side range is completely blank, but the six figures on the south side include St Jerome (his cardinal's hat vivid through the paint) and at least one other is a Bishop, and thus probably one of the other Latin Doctors, perhaps St Augustine. Hauntingly, a crowned Saint peers through the iconoclastic gloom with piercing blue eyes.

Several of the benches in the nave are 15th Century, and so are contemporary with the screen. They have some intriguing figures on their bench ends, the most unusual of which is a collared creature with wings and spikes on its back. So far, so strange, but at the other end of the creature its backside has the head of a fish, and as if that was not curious enough, the fish has just consumed another creature with a long bushy tail. I've not seen the like anywhere else in an East Anglian church, and I can only assume that it was the product of the imagination of a late medieval citizen of Foulden. Interestingly, one of the other bench ends is built into the structure of a 17th Century box pew in the north aisle. We know that this was a common occurence, and it was often how medieval bench ends survived to be restored to their former status by the Victorian restorers. At Hardley on the other side of Norfolk you can still see them encased in box pews.

Spectacular 17th and 18th Century monuments, which would overwhelm a smaller church, are left to sulk in silence on the chancel and nave walls. Sam Mortlock thought the 1656 memorial to Robert Longe was pompous, and it is hard to disagree. They seem peculiarly out of sorts with the mystery of the screen, as if symptomatic of the change in emphasis after the Reformation. White's 1844 Directory reminds us that this was a particularly charitable parish in years gone by. At the time of the great Enclosure Act, three hundred acres were left open for supplying occupiers of the ancient cottages with pastorage and fuel. Rents derived from land in the parish of Old Buckenham supplied 22 worth of kersey, duffle and flannel for distribution among the poor every fifth year. And every Easter, 18 15s from money left in trust by Elizabeth Longe, the first wife of the 'pompous' Robert, along with bequests made by Robert Fuller and an unknown donor at Stoke Ferry were distributed among the most industrious parishioners of Foulden, which all three taken together must have provided support for just about all the poorer citizens of the place.

Simon Knott, August 2022

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looking east looking west
wyvern collared creature with wings and spines and a fish mouth for a bottom eating a long-tailed creature (25th Century) headless unicorn (15th Century)
font Robert Longe, 1656 Susan Longe, 1689 entered into rest at Oxford
15th Century bench end incorporated into 17th Century box pew kitsch

   
               
                 

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