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

St Botolph, Westwick

Westwick

Westwick

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St Botolph, Westwick

This secretive church must be one of the least visited in all Norfolk, and not only because it is the only one for miles around that is kept locked. It sits hidden away in the park of Westwick House, and the gate at the road end of the track to it is often closed. However, the relatively new priest in charge of this large benefice was very happy to come and open up for us, and seemed keen to find ways to make it more accessible in the future. The church itself appears comfortable with its secrecy, snugly shoehorned as it is into its narrow churchyard, closely surrounded by mature trees. The church was rebuilt over the course of the 15th Century, probably the nave first, with strangely narrow aisles and no clerestory, and then the chancel. In 1460 John Batalye left 10s to the making of the new tower, about 500 in today's money, and Paul Cattermole and Simon Cotton transcribed several more bequests over the next twenty years or so which left substantial amounts to the building of Westwick church tower. It was probably complete by the century's end. The crispness of the exterior flintwork betrays the wealthy patronage of the House that allowed considerable restoration work in the 19th Century.

You step through the south porch with its painted ceiling into a nave full of light thanks to the lack of coloured glass. The font came right at the start of the 16th Century, suggesting that the church was complete by then and a wealthy donor needed to spend their money on something else. Turning east, the view through the 19th Century furnishings is to the parclose screens in the aisles and the roodscreen across the chancel arch. They are hard to date because they are so restored - indeed, Pevsner thought the parcloses were mainly 19th Century work. The panel figures of the roodscreen have been restored so as to almost seem repainted, but the conventional subjects they depict suggest a date in the last few decades of the 15th Century, probably contemporary with the building of the tower, although no bequests appear to survive.

screen (north): St Jude, St Simon, St Matthew, St James. St John, St Paul screen (south): St Peter, St Andrew, St Thomas, St James the Less, St Philip, St Bartholomew
screen: St Jude and St Simon screen: St John and St Paul screen: St Matthew and St James
screen: St Peter and St Andrew screen: St Thomas and St James the Less screen: St Philip and St Bartholomew

The twelve apostles are arranged in pairs. On the north side, the figures are St Jude with his boat and St Simon with his fish, St Matthew with his halberd and St James with his pilgrim staff and purse, and St John with his poisoned chalice and St Paul with his sword. On the south side they are St Peter with his keys and St Andrew with his saltire cross, St Thomas with his lance and St James the Less with his fuller's club, and finally St Philip with his basket and St Bartholomew with his flencing knife.

The Berney and Petre families of the House are represented by a number of expensive memorials as well as by ledger stones, but the loveliest memorial here is that to Lilian Amy Duff in the south aisle. She died in 1910, and she is depicted in relief above her inscription, which also remembers her older sister Beatrice who had died at the age of two in 1863, the year after Lilian was born. Portrait and inscription are set within an elegant marble frame, and the whole piece is signed at the bottom Albascript, Gawthorp, London. Thomas Gawthorp & Sons had a workshop in Long Acre, and produced memorials and metalwork for churches there until the 1930s, when they were taken over by Wippell & Co. I wonder if the firm was also responsible for the WWI war memorial, which is in a similar style. The WWII memorial above it, a crucifix with a lettered plate, is also unusual, and it would be interesting to know more about it.

Another curiosity is the 1920s plan displayed at the back of the church for a two-light window by Horace Wilkinson, depicting St Richard and St George. The standing figures stand within elegant Art Nouveau surrounds, and it was probably intended as a war memorial. Beside the design for the glass, Wilkinson has appended in pencil this window has a very strong light, suggesting it was intended for the east window in the south aisle. But the glass throughout the nave is clear, and so for whatever reason it appears that it was never made.

Simon Knott, December 2023

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looking east chancel looking west
font north aisle chapel south aisle chapel Lilian Amy Duff, 1910
WWII and WWI memorials John Berney Petre, 1819 Elizabeth Petre, 1772 James Petre, 1854
Richard Berney, 1738 Victoria royal arms Jack Petre, 1854

   
 
               
                 

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