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

St Andrew, Framingham Pigot

Framingham Pigot

west door Framingham Pigot (2006)

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St Andrew, Framingham Pigot

You can be barely half a dozen miles from Norwich and still feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere, as for here at Framingham Pigot. There is no village really, just a scattering of cottages and houses, and then, rising above the fields, copses and paddocks, the remarkable sight of this church. The minaret-like tower, peeping above distant trees as you negotiate the narrow lanes to the north and east of the town of Poringland, eventually resolves into a grand 19th Century confection in the fields.

Until the 19th Century there was a ramshackle round-towered church here which at the time of the 1851 census of religious Worship had room for 130 people, but what you see today is all of a piece, the 1859 work of Robert Kerr. Kerr was an important architect of the second half of the 19th Century, and this church was one of his early works commissioned when he was in his mid-thirties. In fact, it was one of his few churches, as he was better known for a series of country houses in the Home Counties, one of which, Bearwood House in Berkshire, was described by Pevsner as the climax of country mansions, and in its brazen way one of the major Victorian monuments of England. But that was in the future. George Christie, who lived at Framingham Pigot Manor and was head of the well-known auction house, paid for the rebuilding. Christie is a good example of the kind of energetic, beneficent squire you occasionally got in East Anglia. He was the principal land owner and employer, and there was no doubt who was in charge in the parish. Paternalistic and earnest, he rebuilt all the cottages on his estates, as well as providing a lecture room and a schoolroom. Reasoning that a rundown church was not giving the right impression of the Kingdom of God to his workers, he had the old one demolished and in its place he commissioned one of the grandest and most ornate rural 19th Century churches in all of East Anglia.

The nave and chancel are tall, with ridge-backed roofs, the window tracery in the style of the early 14th Century. The tower is offset on the north side, as if this was a church designed for some shoe-horned plot in the heart of a town, but which came to earth in deepest rural Norfolk instead. Pleasingly, the main material is flint, with freestone details, and a stone tower. Although the west doorway matches the grandeur you see as you approach, you enter the church more traditionally through a south porch, into an interior that is fully High Church, Tractarian in design, a relatively early example for East Anglia. The interior is surprisingly intimate, a long church rather than a big one. Directly opposite the south doorway is what seems to be a split-level transept, but is actually the base of the tower. The lower story forms a chapel, and the upper storey a bell ringing chamber. The organ is shoehorned into the west end of the nave.

Turning east, the glass is by a variety of workshops. The windows by Hardman & Co were probably those installed when the church was built, and there is later glass by Mayer of Munich and AK Nicholson. High above the chancel arch is a stylised doom, with Christ seated in judgement, St Michael and two flanking angels, perhaps by Clayton & Bell. Beyond, the chancel is similarly ornate, the roof above the sanctuary painted as a canopy of honour. In the sanctuary itself is a pillar piscina which appears to be old. Could it be the last remaining survival from the old church?

Simon Knott, April 2022

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looking east chancel looking west
font, baptistery, bell ringing chamber Christ in Majesty above St Michael flanked by angels (Clayton & Bell? 1860s) pulpit
Of such is the Kingdom (Mayer & Co, 1890) St John the Divine and St Edwin, King and Martyr (AK Nicholson, c1930) A Sower went Forth to Sow/the Good Samaritan (Hardman & Co, 1860s) The Publican in the Temple/the Prodigal Son (Hardman & Co, 1860s)

   
   
               
                 

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