home I index I latest I glossary I introductions I e-mail I about this site

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

St Margaret, Paston

Paston

Paston

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.

    St Margaret, Paston

Norfolk had more than its fair share of rich and powerful families in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Pastons are perhaps more famous than most because of the letters they left behind, and we know more about them because of this. In published form, the letters are often hard work, but provide intriguing glimpses of the life of the county set on the eve of the Reformation. The family weren't actually top notch, but, as with many second rank county families, they derived a long term benefit from the Black Death, stepping into the shoes of larger land owners as estates broke up, and enjoying the fruits of rising market prices.

In fact, the Pastons turn out to be rather a colourful lot, spending much of their time feuding with neighbours, forming unsuitable relationships, getting into debt and generally doing the kind of things things that would qualify them to appear on reality TV shows if they were alive today.

The Pastons glorified Broomholm Priory near Bacton with their money, and were buried there. Their local church, St Margaret, was left a comparatively modest affair, despite being beside the Hall. The window tracery suggests that what remains is essentially the 14th century rebuilt church; one chancel window is blocked, and we will come to the reason for that in a moment. The porch was added as a late 15th century afterthought, by no means as grand as most that century. Soon after its construction the Pastons moved away to the greater grandeur of Oxnead Hall near Aylsham, but not without leaving their memorials here first. They are a curious assortment. The older ones are believed to have been brought here from Broomholm when the monastery was closed by Henry VIII, one of them crudely reset in front of the sedilia as if to prevent any further ceremonial use of the seats.

On the north side, and the reason for the blocking of the window, are two enormous memorials by Nicholas Stone, one featuring the life-size Dame Katherine Paston, who died in 1628. She reclines beneath a vast wedding cake of pink and cream, a pediment above topped off with more figures and a crest. One assumes that she wasn't a puritan. Her inscription is rather jolly, and assures us that not that she needeth monument of stone for her well-gotten fame to rest upp on, but this was reard to testifie that shee lives in their loves that yet surviving be. For untoe virtue whoe first raised her name shee left the preservation of the same, and to posterity remaine it shall when marble monuments decaye shall all, which doesn't quite scan, but you get the point. I rather think you would wait an awfully long time for this monument to decay, and I would in any case sooner wish that fate on the ugly one beside it.

Dame Katherine Paston, 1628 (Nicholas Stone) Dame Katherine Paston, 1628 by Nicholas Stone Paston memorial (17th Century)

When the church was rebuilt, wall-paintings covered the inside, and in the 1920s some of them were rediscovered. On the north wall is the top half of a big St Christopher, and further along two parts of a Three Living and Three Dead. The skeletons are conventional enough, but the three noblemen are very animated, one beckoning to the other to come and look. This particular subject was very popular in the years after the Black Death, a meditation and reminder, as if you needed one, on mortality: As you are so once were we, the skeletons point out, as we are so you will be, therefore prepare to follow me...

The Paston memorials are vast, but don't completely overwhelm the chancel, being tucked almost discreetly back against the north wall. Elsewhere, I was pleased to find the original handwritten roll of honour from the First World War, one of several in churches around here. One of those remembered there is Ralph Michael Mack, a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy who, it is recorded on a brass plaque elsewhere, was lost with his ship HMS Tornado by enemy action in the North Sea December 23rd 1917. A striking window by Horace Wilkinson across the nave also remembers Mack, and depicts him as St Michael standing between two angels. Beneath, two panels show HMS Torpedo and five wild swans flying home. Other Mack memorials in the church remember Arthur Paston Mack, killed in action at the Battle of the Somme at the age of 53, and Rear Admiral Philip John Mack, killed flying on active service in 1943, the poignant story of a landed family in the first half of the 20th Century.

Simon Knott, August 2019

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.

looking east chancel font
St Christopher and Christ Child Ralph Michael Mack as St Michael (Horace Wilkinson, c1920) Ralph Michael Mack as St Michael flanked by two angels (Horace Wilkinson, c1920) St George and St Martin (Horace Wilkinson, c1920) William IV royal arms: 'John Mack, Thomas Purdy churchwardens 1831'
HMS Tornado (Horace Wilkinson, c1920) He commissioned and commanded the Destroyer HMS Lucifer in the engagements of Heligoland Bight and the Dogger Bank (Horace Wilkinson, c1920) five wild swans (Horace Wilkinson, c1920)
Arthur Paston Mack killed in action at the Battle of the Somme Ralph Michael Mack lost with his ship HMS Tornado by enemy action in the North Sea Philip John Mack killed flying on active service

   

Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site.

 

home I index I latest I introductions I e-mail I about this site I glossary
Norwich I ruined churches I desktop backgrounds I round tower churches
links I small print I www.simonknott.co.uk I www.suffolkchurches.co.uk

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