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All Saints, Ashwellthorpe
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By the gate is the grave of the great church photographer Richard Tilbrook, whose books of Norfolk and Suffolk Churches Large and Small are still deservedly the standard texts for those wanting to see images of the buildings. Bequest and burial evidence suggests that the whole church was constructed within forty years or so, starting in the later decades of the 14th century. The porch is high and open, with a parvise room above. The door handle is the original one from the start of the fifteenth century - if you look, you can see that the spindle is cast as a tiny dragon, grasping the handle in its mouth. You don't need to get the key to see this.
The church has recently undergone an excellent restoration, and you enter a white-walled barn of a building, full of light from the clear glass of the windows, with modern chairs on beautiful brick floors. It is absolutely lovely, but if it was not for one particular feature, this church would be of little excitement to the historian. However, there is a north chapel to the chancel where members of the Thorp, or Thorpe, family are buried, and between the two lies Norfolk's most splendid alabaster memorial. It depicts Sir Edmund and Lady Jaon Thorp, both wearing the rare collar of SS, angels bearing Lady Joan's pillow to heaven, and two quizzical little dogs beneath their feet.
The font has been repainted with heraldic shields. Pevsner dates it from the Restoration in 1660, and so no doubt it replaced a medieval font destroyed by the puritans. The chancel is cleared of all furnishings, and the sanctuary is simple, practical and beautiful.
Simon Knott, March 2008
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