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

All Saints, Scottow

Scottow: very big

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very big tower very big nave and chancel very big east end next to very big stable block very big hall beyond.  

  All Saints, Scottow
the porch. It's very big   Scottow is a village on the busy Norwich to Cromer road; but its church is far off, and there is no straight line between the two. All Saints sits in a pleasing estate village of largely 19th century housing, shoehorned into the edge of the RAF Coltishall airbase. To get from the village to the church, you need to go around the perimeter. A farm track heads off into woods, and then you are on the estate, with a gorgeous hall, its stable block surmounted by a clock turret, and cottages scattered about farm spaces. The church is tightly hemmed in by its graveyard, difficult to photograph - this is a big church.

The great 15th century porch is slapped hard on to the nave, the south aisle stretching eastwards from it, a rood stair turret showing that the screen stretched right across the church. Inside, there is no chancel arch, just an arch-braced rood beam and a clerestory that runs to within one bay of the length of the church. This is a late rebuilding, more of the effect of a vast long hall than the usual two-cell forms of the big Norfolk churches.

The interior is curiously gloomy, given how big the windows are and how they are full of clear glass. But some if this might be put down to the overwhelmingly 17th century nature of the internal furnishings, from the delightful dolphins twisting on the font cover to quite the most baroque organ case I have ever seen outside of France. In fact, it would not surprise me to discover that it is not an organ case at all, but wall panelling from another building brought here and bolted on. As I looked around, it did occur to me that much of the Jacobean character may well have been installed later by a collector.

There are no less than ten hatchments lining the walls high above the east end, frowning down on all the dark woodwork. There are medieval survivals; part of a St Christopher still bestrides the north arcade, the fish circling the Saints feet rather glumly, and no wonder, for a sea monster is gobbling them up on the right hand side. The Saint's head and the Christ child are gone, although I take this to be iconoclasm or the wear and tear of centuries rather than anything to do with the sea monster. A post-reformation 'goodly text' can be seen further west along the same wall.

In the porch is as fine a green man boss as I have seen in Norfolk so far. In the south aisle there is a chalice brass, for a Priest during this church's Catholic days. And, most precious of all, a perfect medieval altar mensa preserved in a case in the chancel as a memorial.

CofE ministers get uppity, and sometimes with good cause, when their churches are treated as museums. But, in addition to their everyday uses, that is exactly what most of them are. Scottow is more museum-like than most; but I tend to think of churches as folk museums, as giving us a touchstone back down the generations. Scottow does that too, but it is rather more than that; it is a building of interesting artefacts, of curiosa, a place to look and touch, and to feel the presence of the past resonating.

One final curiosity. The church has two sets of royal arms. This is not in itself that unusual, but they are both unusual forms. One, in the south aisle, is a vast set for William and Mary. The other, above the south doorway is to Elizabeth II - now there's something you don't see every day.

Simon Knott, May 2005


looking west sanctuary font and dolphins organ in the north aisle chapel lower half of a St Christopher
looking east, with those dolphins green man in the porch improving Elizabethan text chalice brass
a few of the hatchments Elizabeth II William and Mary altar mensa, piscina behind
17th century lectern 17th century memorial 17th century organ case 
organ case: detail organ case: detail organ case: detail  

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