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

St John, Hoveton

Hoveton St John

Hoveton St John south chancel wall south chancel wall with blocked door

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    St John, Hoveton

Hoveton is the northern half of Wroxham, dominated by tourist shops and the famous Roys of Wroxham empire, and unfortunately overwhelmed by the busy traffic that the Broads generate. St John the Baptist is away from the village centre at the top of a hill on the road to Ludham, but I am afraid that the noise of the cars has drained any peace this churchyard might once have had. Never mind, for it is still a very attractive spot and this is a church full of interest.

Perhaps money was tight here in the 15th century, for unusually in this part of Norfolk not much was rebuilt, but merely made good. Then, in the 18th century, the restrained red-brick tower was built. In the 19th Century the diocesan architect Herbert Green came along, resisted his enthusiasm for neo-Norman and left us the church pretty much as we see it today, although early 20th Century photographs of the south side of the chancel do not show the blocked doorway now apparent there. This was probably exposed at the time of a refurbishment in 1952.

You step into a small, narrow building, plain and simple, a perfect setting for an outstanding collection of continental glass, mostly of the 17th Century, as well as substantial fragments of English glass of a century and a half earlier. Roundels depicted here are the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven, The crowned Mother of God and Christchild standing on a half moon, and an interesting scene from the Book of Tobit, St Raphael wrestling with Asmodeus the lust demon while Tobias adds the fish liver to the incense burner. Meanwhile, the beautiful Sarah awaits in bed. After seven husbands who died of lust before their marriages to her could be consummated, she at last awaits Tobias and a happy ending. Next, St Catherine, St Margaret (dated 1614) and the allegorical figures of Faith and Charity.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven (17th Century, continental) Coronation of the Queen of Heaven (17th Century, continental) Raphael wrestles the lust demon (17th Century, continental)
St Catherine (17th Century, continental) St Margaret (17th Century, continental) Faith  (17th Century, continental) Charity (17th Century, continental)

Other panels include a lovely depiction of the young St John the Baptist hymned on his way by cherubs, the allegorical figure of Faith appears holding a crucifix and a chalice, a stern-looking Hosea and a reassuringly benign St Paul. Christ is accompanied on his way to Emmaus by his two fellow travellers, all three of them in 17th Century cloaks and hats, and then there is a lovely crowded scene of Tobias and Sarah bidding farewell to Tobit and Rebecca. A caravan of camels awaits, and we see the scene from within Tobit's house doorway. Finally, St John the Baptist sits on a rock and directs our attention towards a lamb. Finally, three of the roundels are clearly cut down pieces from larger panels, depicting the Day of Pentecost, an angel and the Sermon on the Mount.

The young St John the Baptist (17th Century, continental) St Barbara? (17th Century, continental) Hosea (17th Century, continental) St Paul (17th Century, continental)
Christ with his fellow travellers on the road to Emmaus (17th Century, continental) Tobias and Sarah bid farewell to Tobit and Rebecca (17th Century, continental) St John the Baptist (17th Century, continental)
Pentecost (roundel created from a fragment of a larger piece, 17th Century, continental) angel (17th Century, continental) sermon on the mount (roundel created from a fragment of a larger piece, 17th Century, continental)

As well as the Continental glass there are fragments of 15th Century English glass, mostly heads, but a hand holding cakes is discernible as well as the feet of an angel standing on a wheel. Away from the glass, the fixtures and fittings are mostly Green's, although there are some old bench ends cobbled on. Curiously, Pevsner blames the scissor-braced roof on Green, but the church guide insists that the whole church was ceilured from the 16th Century until the repairs of 1952, when the plaster was taken out and the roof revealed. The 15th Century font is a bit of a puzzle, as it appears to be a composite of two or even three pieces.

Blofield family memorials and hatchments are all about. John Spencer Blofeld, a Captain in the Honorable East India Company's Service... fell a victim to his exertions in the camp near Hydrabad in the East Indies in 1803. he was 28 years old. Outside, a headstone reset in the wall remembers George Broom, an useful honest and faithful servant to Thomas Blofeld Esq 37 years who died in 1757 at the age of 75. But as suggested earlier the great delight of this church is its glass, from the medieval survivals, through the continental roundels to Ninian Comper's famous east window depicting the Risen Christ flanked by St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist. It was installed in 1914 and is full of the confidence of those years before the Great War. All in all, quite thrilling.

Simon Knott, November 2019

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looking east Stuart royal arms
The Risen Christ flanked by St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist (Ninian Comper, 1914) St John (Ninian Comper, 1914) The Risen Christ (Ninian Comper, 1914) St John the Baptist (Ninian Comper, 1914)
fragments (English, 15th Century) fragments including a hand holding cakes (English, 15th Century) angel with fragments of scrolls, one in English (English, 15th Century) fragments including an angel's feet on a wheel (English, 15th Century)
High Sheriff of this county fell a victim to his exertions in the camp near Hydrabad in the East Indies (1803) the men of Hoveton who died for their country

an useful honest and faithful servant (1757)

   

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