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

St Peter and St Paul, Honing

Honing

Honing Honing Honing
Honing Honing Honing

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    St Peter and St Paul, Honing

Honing has one of the most pleasingly visible of all East Anglian churches, a sentinel on the hilltop seen for miles from the narrow lanes round about. Footpaths wind between fields to reach its narrow churchyard, and the main track to the church arrives from the east beyond the village. That there is something a little unusual about this building is obvious the moment you step into the beautiful graveyard, fort the chancel has been almost entirely truncated, leaving barely eight feet like a lean-to against the nave wall. This makes the nave seem bigger than it is, and also creates a happy proportion with the fine tower. Something has happened here.

Stepping into the wide, light nave, the curiosity continues. The aisles beyond the arcades seem so narrow as to be unlikely, and the walls beyond are obviously rebuilt. And then, look up - the roof extends from outer wall to outer wall, the arcades finishing uselessly up there in the gloom. Obviously, this church underwent a fairly complete rebuilding during the 18th Century, a time when churches were considered as preaching houses, and sacramental spaces were not a high priority.

Pevsner and Mortlock both thought it likely that the aisles have always been this narrow, and the new walls were built in the same places as the old. Pevsner points out that the medieval porch would have needed to be moved if the rebuilt walls had been drawn in. But I think that this is exactly what did happen, and I think this was once a much wider church with arcades and aisles, and separate roofs to nave and aisles. Churches like this were often repaired by demolishing the aisles and infilling the arcades to make new walls. The fact that this is a Hall church makes me think that the local landowner was some sort of antiquarian, and enjoyed recreating what was still essentially a medieval space. He moved the walls in to make it possible to span the whole building in one roof, but left the arcades because, well, they are pretty.

And the external structure still echoes what was there before, albeit not in an articulate 19th century way. He probably wanted a View from Honing Hall as much as anything else. It isn't all successful. The filling in of the lower part of the west door to create a window is clumsy and ugly. But otherwise it is a fascinating result, unlike any other church I know.

There are a number of memorials to members of the Cubitt family. Edward George Cubitt, who died in 1870, served with His Majesty's Dragoons during a great part of the Peninsular War, was in retreat from Burgos, was also present at the Battles of Vittoria, Pampeluna, and Toulouse, and entered Paris with the Allied Army of Occupation in 1815. More poignantly, a memorial to a 20th Century Edward George Cubitt and his wife remembers their grandchildren, threee of them killed in the Great War, two on the same day, 15th August 1915, when the 5th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment were wiped out at Suvla Bay, disappearing into the heat and dust of Gallipolli.

There are hatchments, and a few medieval survivals. The font is one of the familiar series of 13th Century Purbeck marble fonts, reset on a stem from a century or so later. A pretty figure brass of 1496 to Nicholas Parker, knight, lies in the choir. But best of all is the setting, the graveyard dropping away to the west, and across the fields a lonely, ancient pathway leading back down to the village in the valley below.

Simon Knott, August 2019

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sanctuary font Nicholas Parker, 1496
entered Paris with the allied army of occupation in 1815 four sons after a tedious and painful illness
hymns narrow aisle

   

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