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

St Andrew, West Bradenham

West Bradenham: fortress on a hill (click to view)

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south side tower from the east from the gate north side

    St Andrew, West Bradenham
East and West Bradenham form a joint parish, but East Bradenham church is now redundant. St Andrew sits out on the far north-west of the sprawling parish, and despite the relatively suburban feel of the village, the setting of the church is quite remote, down an undulating narrow lane on the other side of a ford across the infant River Wissey. as we passed across I saw the flash of a kingfisher darting low across the water away from us upstream.

As often in this part of Norfolk, the tower is on the south side of the church rather than at the west end. Indeed, the west end is rather curious, the tower looking most awkward as it abutts the face of the south aisle.


West bradenham was one of the homes of the Haggards, that prominent Norfolk farming family who also gave the late Victorians and Edwardians their favourite author. Henry Rider Haggard was born here, and although he later lived, and is remembered, across the county at Ditchingham, the graveyard here is full of his ancestors, and his contemporaries are also recalled. For example, the porch gates were given to this House of God in memory of his niece Audrey, born at Klanec, Istria, September 7th, 1895, Died and was buried at sea February 6th 1933.

If Bradenham church is a touchstone to the Haggards, it is a treasure house of some of the best work of some of the top 19th century glass workshops. At the west end are scenes from the Gospels by the O'Connor Brothers. These are beautiful, full of expression and simplicity. They balnce nicely with William Wailes' east window, depicting the crucifixion above scenes from the books of Genesis and Exodus.

suffer the children (O'Connor Brothers) St Philip (O'Connor Brothers) feeding of the five thousand (O'Connor Brothers) Good Samaritan (O'Connor Brothers)
Gethsemane (O'Connor Brothers) suffer the children (O'Connor Brothers) Christ and Disciples (O'Connor Brothers) work of mercy (O'Connor Brothers)
west window (O'Connor Brothers) Behold the Lamb of God (O'Connor Brothers) fishers of men (O'Connor Brothers) Road to Emmaus (O'Connor Brothers) Gloria in Excelsis Deo (O'Connor Brothers)
Isaac and Abraham (William Wailes) Sacrifice of Isaac (William Wailes) Joseph and his brothers (William Wailes) Jacob sees Joseph's coat (William Wailes) fiery wheel (William Wailes)

Perhaps more beautiful still are Faith, Hope and Charity in a side window - I think these may be by Ward & Hughes. These windows are an adornment to a church which is beautifully looked after; a lot of love and polish have been lavished here.

As at Hardingham, there are plenty of reminders of the way that the Great War touched this parish, including a prayer sheet for 1916 now in a frame. Not far off is a Boer War death, to A Gerald A Haggard, who may have been the writer's nephew. He was killed at Naauwpoort, Transvaal, on the 4th of April, 1901. The secular inscription records that he was a veteran of many battles. He was just 23 years old.

Reminders that the troubles of our present century are not new ones are both inside and outside the church. Not far from Gerald Haggard's plaque is one to James William Palmer, Private, 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, who, after fighting through the Great War, entered into rest at Baghdad November 27th 1922, aged 32 years. To the west of the church is a simple cross to Sir George Cunning Buchanan, who during the First World War, had reorganised the port of Basra. He survived that conflict, only to die in April 1940 defending the Port of Rangoon.

This church is an interesting contrast with that of East Bradenham on the far side of the village - so different from each other, and both lovely in their own way.


Simon Knott, July 2007

looking west font arcade Audrey
looking east Charity, Faith, Hope Faith Hope  Charity
James Bentham a veteran of many battles  war memorial entered into rest at Baghdad
JS 1900 works of mercy/suffer the children Crucifixion porch gate
William Meybohm Rider Haggard two Bradenhams Decorated aumbry south doorway

buried at sea he reorganised the port of Basra

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