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St Peter and St Paul, Shropham
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and St Paul, Shropham
Inevitably, with such a large chancel and low clerestory, the eye is drawn to the great east window on entry. All this was intended. By the 15th Century there was a move away from the shadowy, mystical worship and private devotions of the previous centuries. The Priest came down out of the chancel to his pulpit, and made the nave his own. Benches were provided to encourage a more corporate attitude to Mass, an enforcement of Catholic doctrine, the beginning of congregational worship. The building filled with light from the east, cool, clear and rational. The Reformation was less than a century away.
Quite the most eyecatching things about St Peter and St Paul, however, both date from the 20th Century. They are both windows. The most interesting is that on the south side of the chancel by Mary Lowndes. She was one of the major figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement, working with such greats as Christopher Whall and creating the Glass House Studio in Fulham with Alfred Drury, but she was also an important figure in the Suffragette movement. It was Mary Lowndes who designed their well-known posters, including the ones letting the public know about the Cat & Mouse Act. Her work can be found in half a dozen East Anglian churches, most notably at Lamarsh in Essex and Ufford in Cambridgeshire, where she designed full schemes, but also at Snape in Suffolk, Linton in Cambridgeshire and here at Shropham, her only work in Norfolk and an early work at that. It depicts the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi in an English woodland, a fiery angel standing behind the Holy Family. At the bottom are scenes of the shepherds in the hills with their flocks and the wise men following the star.
The other window, perhaps not quite so thrilling, is by Powell & Sons and dates from the 1940s. It commemorates Flight Sergeant Ronald Garnier, of Shropham Hall, who was Killed in action off Gibraltar in a Spitfire 11th October 1942. The figures of St Michael and St George flank Ronald Garnier as he kneels to pray with his sword against a cross, as well as scenes of the Rock of Gibraltar and Shropham Hall, his home. The only other stained glass in the church is a curiously unsatisfactory mid-19th Century crucifixion in the central light of that great east window. Were there once scenes in the other lights?
Simon Knott, August 2016
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