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St Andrew, Raveningham
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There must have beern a small Norman church here once, but what you see today is all of the 13th and 14th centuries, including the round tower with its castellated top, I think. The elegant Early English arch of the south doorway is a world away from the rugged Norman survivals you find so often hereabouts, and remarkably the ironwork of the door appears to be contemporary with it. All in all, this building is a testimony to the enthusiasm of the Castell or Castyll family, who owned the manor for almost half a millennium throughout and beyond the late medieval period. There was a considerable 19th Century restoration, which makes itself felt inside and out, and in any case the entire building is rendered in a kind of porridge-coloured cement. It was not unattractive on a sunny day, and the big Perpendicular windows in the nave give it a lighter feel than, say, the austerity of nearby Langley.
The first surprise on stepping through the door is the huge block of a memorial to Major Edward Hodge which sits just behind it, fully ten feet tall, with an urn on top like a great handle. It looks for all the world as if it was intended to be used as East Anglia's biggest doorstop. Major Hodge, who died in 1815, was, we are told, a Pious Son, Affectionate Husband, and Tender Father, the only Son of his Mother, and she was a Widow, the pompous valedictory style of the previous century giving way nicely to the impending sentimentality of the new one.
The 15th century font is one of the best in this part of Norfolk. The evangelistic symbols alternate with seated figures, who I think must be intended to represent Holy Orders of the Church. One appears to be a Bishop, another a Friar - are the others a Priest and a Monk?
Simon Knott, July 2009
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