home I index I latest I glossary I introductions I e-mail I about this site

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

St Andrew, Trowse, Norwich


Trowse Trowse, the urban setting gargoyle

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.

    St Andrew, Trowse, Norwich

Is Trowse really in Norwich? It feels as if it is, sitting as it does just off the outer ring road, and overshadowed by the tower block of County Hall and the vast former Colmans Mustard works. But when I first came here about ten years ago I suggested to the old boy who came to open up that this was the last medieval church in Norwich left for me to visit. He gave me a wry look. He'd lived here for years and years, and he didn't think Trowse was in Norwich. "Norwich? Where's that?" he said.

St Andrew still has three keyholders and a welcoming notice. That said, it had an unwelcome visitor one night in the 1980s when a vehicle spun out of control at the exit from the lane to Whittingham, and almost crashed into the east end of the church. He would have destroyed what is one of the most interesting features of the church, the east window tracery and the inscription beneath it which records that Wilelmus de Kirkebei Prior Norvic me posuit, 'William of Kirkby, Prior of Norwich, placed me here'. Kirkby was Prior from 1272 to 1289, and so the window in question is right at the start of the Decorated style. Pevsner compared it with the great east window at Lincoln Cathedral, which can be confidently dated to 1275.

The city of Norwich may be ignored here perhaps, but the Colmans may not, for although they were non-conformists, this church was in the family's patronage. Their influence here is felt two-fold. Firstly, they paid for a late, major restoration in 1901, after the church had been severely damaged by flooding. The nave was substantially rebuilt at this time. Secondly, the interior benefits from some of their somewhat idiosyncratic art collection. The major feature is the vast altarpiece originally in St Michael Coslany. This is enormous, perhaps ten feet high, and is now set on the south wall of the nave. It dates from the first decades of the 18th Century, and was the work of the Norwich artist Charles Heins. It may well have once sat at the east end here, for the four figures which originally flanked it are still in situ either side of the east window.

However, the most memorable feature is the set of three 18th Century life-size figures, two angels and a king, who sit playing instruments on the front of the pulpit. They must have come from a Dutch or Flemish organ case, and were collected by the Colman family, probably in the early 19th Century. The piece was installed in the church as a memorial to Queen Victoria, as the cutting below from the Diss Express, collected by Pete Bardwell, explains.

angels and king play instruments Angel playing a hautbois?, King David playing a harp (18th Century)
angel playing a hautbois? (18th Century) Trowse - pulpit dedications King David

Appearing to match them, but probably local work, is the dramatic 18th Century pelican in her piety forming the lectern across the nave. It was probably only formed into a lectern at the time of the 1901 restoration, which also brought the reredos, again the work of a local carver, which presents the Last Supper in neo-realistic three dimensional detail, and the unexceptional glass above.

Amongst these exotic attractions, something from the much more distant past sits waiting patiently. This is one of the city's best 15th Century fonts, sadly defaced but replete with detail. Lions alternate with angels holding shields, while around the base clerical figures sit among the evangelistic symbols. Finally, don't miss the parish's World War Two memorial, the surprisingly few names suggesting that this parish is, in fact, a rural one after all. They are engraved on a light-hearted medallion in the 17th Century style, so convincing that unless you took a moment to read it you might think it really was that old.

Simon Knott, August 2019

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.


looking east Risen Christ flanked by 'follow me' and 'he is not here he is risen' Healing
font font angel holding an arma christi shield with instruments of the passion (15th Century)
WWII memorial John Rumby font: instruments of the passion

Wilelmus de Kirkebei Prior Norvic me posuit


The Churches of East Anglia websites are non-profit-making, in fact they are run at a considerable loss. But if you enjoy using them and find them useful, a small contribution towards the cost of web space, train fares and the like would be most gratefully received. You can donate via either Ko-fi or Paypal.


donate via Kofi



home I index I latest I introductions I e-mail I about this site I glossary
Norwich I ruined churches I desktop backgrounds I round tower churches
links I small print I www.simonknott.co.uk I www.suffolkchurches.co.uk

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