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

All Saints, Sharrington

Sharrington: adrift in a sea of cow parsley

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lost aisle, but the arcade survives grand tower buttressed tower stairway from the gate going under...

    All Saints, Sharrington
18th century gravestone   The late spring of 2006 was warm and humid after a long wet spell, and north Norfolk's churches were adrift in a sea of cow parsley. It was all very beautiful, although it did make negotiating the outer reaches of the graveyards a little difficult when you were trying to get a long shot of the church. Often, I found a beaten track to the best place, and I came to think of it as a churchcrawler trail. Someone with a similar purpose had been here recently, I thought. I was not alone.

In its Catholic days, All Saints was a much bigger church. All that survives of the aisles which flanked it are the arcades, set in the south and north walls and looking most attractive. They seemed to add to the illusion of a floating structure in the bubbly white lace of the cow parsley.

The priest door on the south side has been partly filled with an 18th century grave marker. The bottom of the tower stairway is buttressed by the remains of a traceried arch, which is odd, to say the least. All in all, it makes for a singular building.

All Saints is one of those churches that you step into from the west, and the homely interior presents itself to you by unfolding before you. It is all crisp and clean - indeed, when Mortlock came this way in the 1980s, he found the church being saved from dereliction, and at the time inaccessible. He therefore missed one of East Anglia's most amusing medieval treasures. This is the remarkable set of 20 corbel heads that flank the north and south rooflines. They are large, about 30cm across, and each of them is different. They depict half a dozen green men, some hooded faces, and many animals, including a bull, a pig, a bat and what is probably Norfolk's friendliest sheep. They are an absolute delight. You can see some of them below.

green man green man green man green man
green man green man animal animal
animal animal cowled face animal 
animal animal animal Nofolk's friendliest sheep

Today, the roof is steeply pitched, and I wondered if once it had been higher. It makes for a very intimate space; the old font sits comfortably down in the south-west corner, the building is full of light from the entirely clear windows, and there is even a collection of brasses, dating from either side of the great Reformation divide. Unfortunately, they are mounted on the wall, so let's hope there is never a fire here, or they will make a veritable river of latten. Floor-mounted brasses don't melt - the heat rises away from them.

This pretty church has two further amusements to offer. The Hanoverian royal arms is a pretty set, with an earnest looking lion and a rather coy unicorn, and a stall depicts a beehive above a barrel, or tun. Bees appear to be stealing from the barrel, and it is dated 1879. I took this to be rebus, perhaps even of the name Sharrington itself, but I couldn't work out how a beehive could represent the first part of the place. Any ideas?

Simon Knott, July 2006


looking east sanctuary south-west corner looking west font pre-Reformation Priest brass
post-Reformation family brasses brasses royal arms rebus

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