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

All Saints, Panxworth

Panxworth

Panxworth

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    All Saints, Panxworth

Panxworth is a village on the busy Wroxham to Acle road through the southern Broads, and the ruin of All Saints is a landmark easily seen from the top of Ranworth tower. From three sides you might think that Panxworth's remains are simply a 14th century century tower and a few gravestones, but there is more to it than that. The eastern face has a very curious archway set against it. This is, in fact, Victorian, and is a clue to understanding why this medieval structure comes to stand alone now.

In common with many East Anglian churches, All Saints was in a bit of a state by the early 19th century. As explored in the introduction, the Victorians enthusiastically took them to task, and some restorations were more sensitive than others. Here at Panxworth the nave and chancel were completely rebuilt. The architect was James Weston, and it was a fairly early rebuilding of 1847. He seems to have left the tower alone.

The Victorians meant well, but they created a massive glut of buildings out of all proportion to CofE needs. The miracle is that the Anglicans sustained ministry in so many for so long. But it could not last forever, and in common with many others this church was declared redundant in the 1970s.

Less significant churches that could not find a new use were doomed. Many Victorian churches fell foul of this, and one of them was here at Panxworth. The church was demolished and the 14th century tower was left in isolation. All that survives of Weston's work is the tower arch, a ghostly remnant. The tower was struck by lightning in January 2006, leaving a large hole in the parapet and giving fear to the possibility that the whole thing might collapse. However, the damage has been repaired sensitively, and you would never know. Where generations worshipped is now pleasingly tree-shadowed open ground, scattered with gravestones and overgrown with wild flowers. Poignantly, several of the graves are still tended.

Simon Knott, July 2019

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view up the tower west window The Panxworth dead

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