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St John the Baptist, Lakenham, Norwich
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the Baptist, Lakenham, Norwich
Just off the outer ring road in Norwich's dreary southern suburbia sits this sad little church on an ancient hilltop churchyard site, hemmed in on all sides by housing. You can't see it until you get right up to it. Lakenham parish is long and wedge-shaped, driving into the centre of the city. The chapel of ease to this church, St Mark, sits close to the inner ring road.
The trimness of the churchyard to the north of the church belies the fact that this building appears to be very neglected - indeed, it had an air of being abandoned to its fate. There were no notices, no signs of any kind. Even the noticeboard by the gate had gone, just two uprights remaining. Whether it had been destroyed by vandals or the elements it was hard to say. There was, of course, no open door, no welcome. As at Earlham on the other side of Norwich, here you felt was a medieval building, the touchstone down the long generations, which was now in its last days. Perhaps there is still a congregation, but I wondered if they now worshipped elsewhere, because there seemed no sign that this building had been used for a long time.
A large and alarming porch faces the gate, initialled by the churchwardens and dated 1824, a slightly pre-ecclesiological time which was not a happy one for church restorations. Perhaps this date gave the stark brick aisle on the south side too, which at least in the sunshine lifted the heart a little more than the depressing, grey cement render of the north side. There were cobwebs across all the doorways.
Simon Knott, November 2012
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