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

St Andrew, Bacton

Bacton

Bacton

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    St Andrew, Bacton

It was good to come back to Bacton. The church sits just off the pleasant high street with its period cottages, and you wouldn't know you are only a mile or so from the Bacton gas terminal, one of the largest industrial complexes in East Anglia. Because of this Bacton seems a backwater, but in the middle ages the parish was home to Broomholm Priory, a possessor of a substantial piece of the true cross.

You can see Bacton church from a long way off, because the tower is quite something. This is actually a fairly small church, but substantial bequests in the mid-15th century gave it a tower with a presence not quite up to the scale of Happisburgh, but in a similar style. The body of the nave and chancel also appears to be basically 15th century. Why so small? Perhaps the powerful presence of the neighbouring Priory made it unnecessary to have anything bigger. But it has to be said that St Andrew was overwhelmingly restored in the 19th century. This is, to all intents and purposes, a Victorian church in a medieval shell. But it is very welcoming, open on this day in the summer of 2019 despite the problem of falling masonry from the chancel arch inside, which a sign reminded us it would be prudent to stay away from.

As you might hope and expect, there are medieval survivals, the font in particular a reminder of the sheer opulence of late medieval East Anglia. But generally this is a mellow, colourful place with an agreeable clutter, where little seems to have happened since the 1890s. And the glass has the blessing of some excellent glass in that period in the 1860s when Robert Bayne arrived to join Heaton & Butler and was able to exhibit his dazzling figurative style before the firm became so popular they had to employ other lesser artists. A typically mundane St Peter by Kempe & Co seems to sulk in comparison.

A battered, fading brass plate tucked behind the chancel arch records that this flag belonged to HMS Cormorant Commander Armine Woodhouse RN. She was destroyed by the Chinese in the attack at the Tako forts on the Peiho River June 25th 1859. Captain Wodehouse sunk under an attack of fever produced by exposure and anxiety consequent on the loss of his ship and died November 19th 1859 aged 36. Later, I found a reference to Wodehouse in Mee's King's England: Norfolk. He had been the rector's son. The Cormorant was a gun boat, taking to Beijing a treaty opening up trade between China and Europe. The flag was a sign of official protection, but the soldiers in the Tako forts didn't recognise it for whatever reason. Several years of war followed.

Simon Knott, August 2019

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looking west font font
The young Christ preaching in the Temple (Robert Bayne, 1867) Simeon with the Christ child (Robert Bayne, 1867) Crucifixion above scenes of life of the young Christ (Robert Bayne, 1867) Presentation in the Temple (Robert Bayne, 1867)
Mary Read as Charity (Heaton, Butler & Bayne, 1895) St Peter (Kempe & Co) Christ calls the Disciples (Jones & Willis, 1928) Jones & Willis, London, 1928
sunk under an attack of fever produced by exposure and anxiety consequent to the loss of his ship Killed in Action near Armentieres aged 25 years

   

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