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, Wood Dalling

Wood Dalling

Wood Dalling Wood Dalling Wood Dalling

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

   

St Andrew, Wood Dalling

St Andrew is in the remote heart of Norfolk and close to giants, for Heydon, Salle and Cawston are all a country walk away. Because of this, Wood Dalling, pronounced dor-ling, is perhaps not as well known as it might be if it was in another part of the county, and the great perpendicular tower rising above the fields and copses might suggest that St Andrew is just another of those large 15th Century churches for which Norfolk is famous. However, a closer look at the nave and chancel shows that that this church is the product of an earlier age, in the years when the 13th Century was heading towards and becoming the 14th Century. The aisle windows are obviously later, but there were aisles here before as the arcades inside will show. This means the church was here for almost two hundred years before its more illustrious neighbours were rebuilt, and for a while at least may well have been the largest church in the area. More than this, St Andrew is unusual for a large church in Norfolk in having a tower which was built later than its nave and chancel, so perhaps this tower was built, or rebuilt, to compete with the neighbours. Pevsner notes that in 1422 there was the first bequest of several through the 15th Century for the Wood Dalling tower, and this coincides almost exactly with the building of the tower at Cawston. The tower at Salle appears to have been complete by 1440, but there were still bequests at Wood Dalling into the 1470s, so it must have been the last of the group to be completed.

I like small churches best, but this is exactly the kind of big church that I like. You step into a wide open space, quite uncluttered and full of light, and ever so slightly ramshackle. There is no coloured glass, and St Andrew has no secrets, it is a building you can take in as a whole at first sight. Tall, creamy arcades lift to the old wood of the roofs, the benches from which they emerge are also old and a bit primitive, and perhaps not terribly comfortable, though full of character. The brick floors complete the sense of an ancient space at one with the land outside, organic, a touchstone down the long generations of the parish.

Wood Dalling's brasses are notable. There are half a dozen of them and the remains of several others, including several figures and a rare chalice brass. Oddly, they appear to have been reset, sometimes clumsily, in new indents, perhaps in the 19th Century, which of course begs the question of whether they all came from here in the first place. The stairs in the south-west corner lead to the parvise of the porch, and there is a curious corbel that seems to serve no purpose above it. The effigy of a medieval knight in the north aisle is even stranger - some mid-Victorian fancy has recut it as a 19th Century woman.

Despite this interlude of energetic activity a century and a half ago, you can't help thinking that not a lot happens here. The old hassocks enjoin us to kneel to pray, a cupboard at the back of the church tells us that it contains prayer bookes. And probably not many people who visit the local tourist honeypots come here. That's a pity, because this is a cool, peaceful, sacred space, a place to sit and be alone in the sweet silence.

Simon Knott, November 2020

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

   

looking east looking west Wood Dalling
north aisle light falls south aisle
prie-dieu farewell my wife and children dear pulpit, prayer desk, benches
Wood Dalling Victorian lady crucified
prayer bookes Wood Dalling
Wood Dalling Wood Dalling
kneel to pray kneel to pray hymns, psalms

   
               
                 

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