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St John the Baptist Maddermarket, Norwich
the Baptist Maddermarket, Norwich
George Plunkett's photographs show the church as it was on the eve of the Second World War, both views still fairly familiar today. The church was declared redundant in the early 1970s as a result of the Brooke Report, which is perhaps understandable given the proximity of St Andrew and St Peter Mancroft. For a while, it was used by the Greek Orthodox community, but the building came into the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, and is regularly open, although perhaps not as often as it might be given its location.
Stepping inside to the dark, devotional interior, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Greeks were still in possession. In fact, this faux-baroque space is almost wholly the work of William Busby, arch-Anglo-Catholic Rector in the early years of the 20th century, much of it collected from other churches, the rest made to his orders. There is a feel, not so much of clutter, but of a crowding within the enclosing walls of late 19th and early 20th Century glass, and not even the dominating 18th Century baldachino, originally made for St Michael Coslany, can fully draw the eye eastward without distraction. Some fragments of medieval glass survive, but much that was old was destroyed in a gas explosion in the 1870s. A few noteable survivals are elsewhere, as we shall see in a moment.
With the exception perhaps of the 1870s east window installed after the explosion, the glass is good of its kind. In particular, Powell & Sons's Annunciation scene in the north chancel chapel is outstanding.
The east window in the south chapel, which is probably also by Powell & Sons, depicts the Blessed Virgin surrounded by angels holding shields of the instruments of the passion beneath six female Saints in the upper lights. But it is the other window on the south side above the priest's door which is most memorable, showing a splendid Tree of Jesse by the J&J King workshop of Norwich, installed after the First World War. It is hard not to think that the faces of the prophets are actually Norwich worthies of the time.
Missing from the church is the medieval rood screen, which must have run right the way across the nave. Surviving from it are some of the panels, depicting Saints including St Agatha and St William of Norwich, but today they are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, along with some glass from a Norwich church which is also likely to have been St John Maddermarket.
Simon Knott, December 2017
You can see thousands of George Plunkett's other old photographs of Norwich on the Plunkett website
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