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

St Mary, Antingham

Antingham St Mary

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    St Mary, Antingham

It was June 2019, and I was exploring some churches to the north of the Broads that I'd not revisited for fifteen years. So much had happened in that time to me, but not to most of these quiet little churches. Antingham churchyard sits beside the busy North Walsham to Cromer road, but it was still a lovely place to come back to. The churchyard has two churches, St Margaret and St Mary. St Margaret is now a ruin, but is still a spectacular sight, sitting parallel to St Mary across the graveyard. In fact, by the end of the seventeenth century they were both in a parlous state, and the decision seems to have been taken to demolish parts of St Margaret to mend St Mary. However, this does not disguise the fact that St Mary is a church of the Decorated period, and was probably complete before the intervention of the Black Death.

Its current shipshape state owes a lot to the major restoration of 1865. I've not come across a record of who the architect was, but he seems to have been a person of taste, because windows were commissioned from the rising firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & co. The best of these depicts the Blessed Virgin flanked by St Mary Magdalene and St Martha. The central figure is fairly typical Burne-Jones work, but the outer two figures are better, St Mary Magdalene by William Morris himself and best of all the figure of St Martha with her pots and pans by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The figure of Mary Magdalene was also used at Westerfield on the outskirts of Ipswich.

Mary Magdalene (William Morris, 1865) Blessed Virgin (Edward Burne-Jones, 1865) St Martha (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1865) St Mary Magdalene, Blessed Virgin, St Martha (Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & co, 1865)

Martha is shown holding a clumsy collection of pots and pans. The Blessed Virgin is shown at the Annunciation, holding her prayerbook and lilies. Mary Magdalene looks as if she is holding a can of Special Brew, but I'm sure that can't be right. The Magdalene looks like Morris's work, although you can't help thinking that Martha might have been a more appropriate subject for Morris, being as sober and industrious as he was. Whatever, Rossetti's work is rare in Norfolk, and this is worth a visit. Burne Jones was also responsible for glass across the nave depicting three angels ringing bells.

The font is one of those off-the-peg Purbeck marble jobs of the 13th century, which many churches seem to have around here, and apart from that the church is essentially 19th century in character. The great exception is an intriguing memorial brass up in the chancel. It is to Richard and Anne Calthorpe. Her figure has been lost, but the piece is fascinating for three reasons. Firstly, because the date is 1554, and the inscription records that this was in the first and second years of King Phillip and Queen Mary. Secondly, there is a head of Christ the Man of Sorrows as part of the brass, which has been vandalised, probably by puritan reformers. And lastly, the brass beneath the inscription shows their children, no less than nineteen of them. The poor woman must have died of exhaustion.

Simon Knott, August 2019

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looking east font St Peter, St John, St James (Kempe & Co, 1890)
in the first & seconde yeres of King Philippe and Queyne Mary (1554) Christ the Man of Sorrows (1550s, vandalised) angels striking bells (Edward Burne-Jones, 1865)
corbel head died in Indo-China whilst a Prisoner Of War in Japanese hands
he had issue too sonnes and syx daughters (1596) 19 children

   

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