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St Mary, Redenhall
The De la Poles had been beneficiaries of the pestilences of the previous century, when the deaths of roughly half the people of Norfolk and Suffolk resulted in the break-up of the old estates and the rising of wages and prices, enabling those with money to buy land cheaply. This emergence across northern Europe of a property-owning independent middle class without historic ties and loyalties to their parishes and people would inevitably lead to the continent's two great ideologies of the second half of the millennium, Protestantism and Capitalism.
was in the future when the De la Poles and fellow
proto-capitalists the Brothertons were making bequests to
rebuild St Mary. Up went the tower and the clerestory,
and the aisle windows were all replaced in the fashion of
the day. Only the chancel was left looking rather mean
and slight. Perhaps they would have got to that too had
priorities not changed. Around the base of the tower you
can see their leopard and wild man symbols. You might
also spot tortoises, for this was the symbol of the Gawdy
family. One curious detail is the carving of farriers'
implements on the west door. These have been taken to
mean that the door was paid for by the local farriers'
guild, but I see no reason to suppose that the carving is
contemporary, and I think it is as likely to be the work
of an idle 18th century hand.
Inevitably, the interior of the church is not going to live up to the exterior. Today, I had come here from the two churches of the Pulhams, both huge barns of churches, and this one is a bit of a barn too, vast and echoey, but perhaps a classier barn than the two I had previously visited. It is true that the inside of St Mary has been thoroughly Victorianised, and it is really hard to summon up any sense of its medieval life. The serious dark woodwork of the case of the Holdich organ in the west gallery would have frowned on the acres of coloured glass in the naves at the Pulhams, but here there is relatively clear light with only a few Ward & Nixon windows that can easily be tuned out. The best glass is in the chancel, the early 20th Century east window by Herbert Bryans to the design of Ernest Heasman. They worked together elsewhere in Norfolk in the north transept at Salle, and on the east window at Holt which is broadly similar to this one. The other glass in the chancel is of the 1860s, by Thomas Baillie.
There are interesting corners which give the church very much a character of its own, for example the Gawdy chapel at the east end of the north aisle which contains a spirited classical altar tomb of the late 18th century, a hint of Strawberry Hill Gothick about it, rather unusual but very well done.
Simon Knott, August 2018
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