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

St Peter, Hoveton

Hoveton St Peter

Hoveton St Peter Hoveton St Peter Hoveton St Peter 1624

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    St Peter, Hoveton

I first came here at eight o'clock in the morning at the start of one of those wonderful days that seemed to fill July 2006. The haze over the park of Hoveton Hall was thinning, and the sun was getting higher above the trees. Even the Roys of Wroxham empire, actually on the Hoveton side of the river, looked romantic down in the valley. It was going to be a scorcher.

The shops and leisure developments on the Hoveton side sometimes give Wroxham a bad name, I'm afraid, but you don't have to go far out into the lanes to bring yourself back into proper rural Norfolk. In the narrow lanes to the north of the village sits one of Norfolk's prettiest small churches. The red brick, thatched St Peter, with its stepped gables and bellcote was a perfect sight that first time I saw it early on a summer's day, and more so for being so tiny, so precious, like a carnelian jewel box in a bed of green velvet, all of a piece. And so it remains in the years I have revisited it since, in preference early in the day, cycling from the nearby railway station.

St Peter was built in one go in 1624. As Pevsner observes, this is an unusual date for a church to be built in England. I assume it had something to do with the proximity of the Hall. Hoveton's medieval parish church, St John, is a good mile and a half a way. The family who lived at the Hall were the Blofelds, and although the current Hall wasn't built until the end of the 17th century, I assume that there was an earlier building on the same site. There are two bays of windows in the nave, a west window and an east window, and a little porch in perfect proportion. It made me think of a toy church, perhaps even one of those china ones you see on some people's mantelpieces.

You step into a tiny space, one of Norfolk's dozen smallest parish churches. When I first read about this church, my heart had sunk on discovering that the restoration in the late 19th century was by Herbert Green. Green was the mediocre Diocesan architect at the end of the 19th century, and I feared a dark, gloomy place. It is true that entering the building now is to enter a 19th century building to all intents and purposes, but it is a restrained one, full of light, and still very much suits it. Green was not able to entirely resist his enthusiasm for the neo-Norman, hence the ludicrous tub font, but for that he may perhaps be forgiven.

There is a gorgeous moulded Stuart royal arms set on a painted back cloth. This church was built the year before James I died, but the arms do not bear his motto and so are perhaps those of his son, Charles I. There are hatchments and other memorials to the Blofelds, and an interesting memorial to Mary Aufrere from the middle years of the 18th century. But most of all, this is a simple, pretty, prayerful space, welcoming and inclusive. On a summer day it is full of light and the sound of birdsong, and I'll always remember it and keep coming back to it for that.

Simon Knott, November 2019

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looking east looking west
font (19th Century) Mary Aufrere for lo the winter is past the rain is over and gone Stuart royal arms

coffin on a tombchest with fern and tulip the Hoveton dead


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