Bawdeswell Booton Heydon

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

All Saints, Bawdeswell

Bawdeswell: bright and welcoming

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    All Saints, Bawdeswell
The grand portal   The events that led to the destruction of three earlier churches on this site are detailed in the introduction to this piece, so it suffices to say that All Saints is Norfolk's only post-war village parish church. It is built in flint and brick, familiar from domestic buildings in this part of East Anglia. James Fletcher Watson, the architect, used the presence of significant 18th century buildings in the village to justify the style, although it appears to have been the parishioners who finally chose a design that was criticised for being middle-brow during the white heat years of modernism. It has stood the test of time well, although Watson's aim to integrate it into its setting is not obviously fulfilled; rather, it is the open greenness of the churchyard which inoculates its almost New England simplicity from the familiarly complex collection of village buildings around. It would not sit as comfortably among a jumble of gravestones.

All Saints has a homogenity that echoes Wren's City churches. The mock-classical portal, which should overwhelm, doesn't. The bell fleche and clock stage were completed in the 1990s, and the clear glass is set with roundels and panels of continental glass - again, this should appear more curious than it actually does.

Christ throwing the moneylenders out of the temple Last Supper Crucifixion Ascension of Christ

Fletcher Watson insisted on a three decker pulpit, which the parish were uncertain about. They gave in when he designed one that could be easily dismantled if necessary; and there it is, still in place today. The woodwork has a pleasing faded appearance, not as antiseptic as some of the Ikea-style furnishings often found in a building of this age. It has to be said that the overall cost, less than 20,000, was very reasonable. Most of it came from the War Damage Reparations Fund.

looking east looking west three decker pulpit sanctuary arch sanctuary

On my first visit I was grateful for the clear glass, because I couldn't get in. However, since then the church has installed CCTV and is opened every day. I came back to step into the beautiful interior, quite unlike any other in East Anglia. The building is full of light, the classical imperiousness of the sanctuary arch softened by light wood and a simple west gallery. The light comes from the mable floor as much as the windows. One touching memorial records the plane crash itself, recording the names of the pilot and co-pilot. It is made from part of the plane.

This is a cool, bright, welcoming place, a must see.

Simon Knott, June 2004 (updated July 2006)

You can also read: an introduction to the churches of Bawdeswell, Booton and Heydon


font memorial inscription
Dedication stone. Inside: the three-decker pulpit and altar rails
Open space 17th century glass Pleasingly airy

Bawdeswell Booton Heydon

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