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

All Saints, Weasenham

Weasenham All Saints

Weasenham All Saints 15th Century porch Weasenham All Saints AM AM AM

    All Saints, Weasenham
porch corbel head   Weasenham is a long village on the busy Swaffham to Cromer road. There are two parishes, and two medieval churches, one at each end of the village. Both used to be kept locked, but they are now both open every day to passing pilgrims and strangers. All Saints is set slightly further away from the road than its unfortunate neighbour, and there is an illusion of peace in the lane, but still the traffic hurtles past to the east of the churchyard as if there was no tomorrow.

The church presents its most attractive face to the lane, a fine 15th Century porch with details picked out in stone rather than the more usual East Anglian flushwork. The top parapet is of 1905, as, in fact, is pretty much the whole of the rest of the church. The tower had fallen in the 17th Century, and in the 18th century the upper parvise of the porch was replaced by a brick structure which was removed by the Edwardians. The corbel heads which supported the upper storey survive in situ in the porch. The only other earlier survivals are the north arcade, and one rather good medieval surprise which we shall see inside.

You step into a wide open space that feels all of its early 20th Century date, the height of Anglican triumphalism. But All Saints appears to have always been relatively Low Church, and there are none of the exuberant furnishings one associates with the period. There is no coloured glass at all, and the wooden parquet flooring helps impart a peaceful simplicity.

The great survival here is the dado to the 15th Century roodscreen. On the north side are the figures of the four Latin Doctors, from left to right St Ambrose, St Augustine, St Jerome and St Gregory. On the south side are the four Evangelists, from left to right St John, St Luke, St Mark and St Matthew. The Latin Doctors are in reasonable condition, and while not of the quality of the figures at nearby Wellingham you can see that they must once have been rather fine. By contrast, little survives that is discernible of the four Evangelists, except for the haunting detail that you can just make out the symbols of St John's eagle, St Mark's winged lion and St Matthew's winged man. Of St Luke's winged bull I could make out no trace.

NORTH: Four Latin Doctors: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory (15th Century) SOUTH: Four Evangelists: John, Luke, Mark, Matthew (15th Century)
St Ambrose (15th Century) St Augustine (15th Century) St Jerome (15th Century) St Gregory (15th Century)
St John's eagle (15th Century) St Mark's winged lion (15th Century) St Matthew's winged man (15th Century)

The simplicity of the setting is perfect for the screen, and in the afternoon light falling from the west it was beautiful. There is perhaps little else to see here, but it felt a pleasant place to be, so I sat for a while in contemplation and then went for a wander outside.

The south porch is really quite something, with tall hooded niches and relief carving of Marian symbols. It must have been splendid when it was original and intact. To the west of the church is a grand 18th Century tombchest topped off rather absurdly with an urn. It is for Richard Jackson, a member of the local gentry who died in 1768. A greater curiosity is to the north side of the church, where two headstones are set in the concrete beside the north wall, one with a coffin-shaped chest attached to it.

In Richard Jackson's time, this parish was known as Upper Weasenham, before the Victorian fashion for reviving Saints' names. White's 1844 Directory for Norfolk provides the intriguing detail that the parish was host to a fair for toys on the 25th of January each year.

  porch corbel head

Simon Knott, October 2013

looking east south aisle north arcade
pulpit frontal looking west roodscreen and pulpit steps

draped urn and cherubs coffin tomb and headstones 18th Century grandeur masonic  

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