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

St Mary, Roughton

Roughton

Roughton

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    St Mary, Roughton

I love the little churches scattered through the narrow high-hedged lanes to the south of Cromer and Sheringham. Beautifully set, full of interest and open every day, they are a delight to cycle around. Many are little-known to outsiders, but Roughton, pronounced to rhyme with cow-t'n, is larger and will be more familiar than most because it is on the main road between Norwich and Cromer.

Despite the nearby busy road the setting is lovely, the rolling hills covered in woods and a sense of the sea a couple of miles off. And best of all, St Mary has one of the most ancient of East Anglia's round towers, its Saxon origins revealed by the circular double-splayed windows about ten feet up, and the rugged triangular-headed double bell arches. Pevsner tells us that the herringbone pattern of the carstone at the base of the tower is generally regarded as an early Norman technique rather than a Saxon one, but he feels Roughton may be an exception to this. Whatever, it all feels splendidly old.

The body of the church is surprisingly big, and gives St Mary a feeling that it is hunching its shoulders. It is typically East Anglian in a different way, a late 14th/early 15th Century rebuilding with aisles and clerestory, all overwhelmingly restored by the Victorians. The whole piece is harmonious and pleasant and you step into a building which is full of light. The interior is pretty much entirely 19th Century, with shiny tiled floors and pitch pine benches, but even this is interesting, because the benches are numbered, and the churchwarden's seat is marked in confident Victorian lettering. The tower arch is curious and beautiful, echoed by the tiny west window and completing the perspective. The only coloured glass is in the south aisle, a fine depiction of three of the Works of Mercy which Birkin Haward thought might be by the O'Connor workshop.

The font is one of those you often find in this part of Norfolk, apparently EE becoming Dec but probably later than that, and, as Mortlock observes, probably part of an off-the-shelf collection rather than anything produced locally. Generally, this is a very pleasing interior, and so there is no excuse for those glum and glowering faces up in the clerestory that look down on it all. Give us a smile for once!

Simon Knott, August 2019

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looking east pink
font at harvest those who fell Roughton Group MU: 'prayer worship service love'
Works of Mercy: 'Sick and ye visited me' (O'Connors? c1870) Works of Mercy: 'Naked and ye clothed me' (O'Connors? c1870) Works of Mercy: 'Hungry and ye fed me' (O'Connors? c1870) Works of Mercy (O'Connors? c1870)
gloomy woman prim lady devil in the clerestory

skull and crossed bones skull and crossed bones

   

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