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

St Andrew, Bedingham

Bedingham

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St Andrew, Bedingham

Bedingham's church sits on a low ridge to the south of the village of Woodton, and Woodton's parish church strides in time with it about a mile to the north, the two churches forming a fine pair as they face each other across the agricultural landscape. Both have early round towers with later bell stages, but there the comparison ends, for while Woodton's church is a quiet, rustic little building, Bedingham church is more spectacular, with aisles and a clerestory that runs the length of the building to the east wall of the chancel, as well as a transept on the south side. It was that rare thing in East Anglia, a cruciform church.

As at Woodton, the round tower is 12th Century in its lower stage with the decorative bell stage added in the 15th Century. The cruciform church was probably contemporary with the building of the tower, while the clerestory and south aisle came at the same time as the tower was elaborated. At some point the transept was given an imposing Decorated window, presumably early in the 14th Century. There is almost no coloured glass, so the church you step into is wide and full of light, a delicious setting for the old woodwork and stone. The typical 15th Century East Anglian font rides high at the west end of the nave, and the view to the east is to a screen contemporary with it. It seems likely that both came along with the clerestory and aisle, suggesting that there was considerable wealth here at the end of the medieval period. The width of the aisles, and the way they continue beyond the chancel arch, makes the screen seem slighter than it is. It would be much more imposing in a smaller, narrower church.

The chancel is dominated by some very good memorials to the Stone family, who lived in Bedingham Hall until the early 19th Century. The one to William Stone of 1765, whose blooming virtues were faded by the nipping blast of consumption of which he died at Bristol hot-wells, is particularly memorable.

Stone memorials

William Stone, 1762 William Stone, 1765 'whose blooming virtues were faded by the nipping blast of consumption of which he died at Bristol hot-wells' Robert Stone, 1829 George Stone, 1808

Elsewhere in the chancel, the sedilia on the south side is striking because it is flanked by two piscinas.

The only coloured glass in the church is all old, and is reset in the north aisle east window. Among the fragments are three figures. At the top is St Paul with his sword. Below are St Thomas, the head of whose lance you can just make out beside his head, and St Philip, carrying a basket of bread. Either side are two large 17th Century Flemish roundels, one depicting the stoning of St Stephen and the other the Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus, both of them lively and violent in their drama. They were donated to the church by Kings College Chapel which had received them as part of a bequest, and were reset here by King & Son in the 1960s along with the 15th Century figures and fragments gathered from around the church.

St Thomas and fragments (15th Century) St Paul and fragments (15th Century) St Philip and fragments (15th Century)
The Stoning of Stephen (Continental, 17th Century) The Conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus (Continental, 17th Century)

The bench set is largely medieval, some bits probably cobbled together later. Part of one bench back has set into it a length of wood bearing a carved inscription asking us to pray for the souls of two donors. It begins, in that mixture of Latin and English not unusual in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, Orate pro animabus Symon Tibas and Elly his wyfe. It looks like it probably came from a screen, but it is hard to see how it could have come from the roodscreen here, so perhaps it was from one of the parcloses. Two benches towards the back have the head of a man and a woman as bench ends, and it is tempting to think they might be Symon and Elly Tibas.

Simon Knott, October 2021

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looking east looking east looking west
font screen north aisle chapel St Thomas, St Paul, St Philip and fragments (15th Century)
sedilia and piscinas Heare lyeth the bodye of William Pursel (1634) bench end bench end
orate pro animabus Symon Tibas and Elly hys wyfe orate pro animabus Symon Tibas and Elly hys wyfe

   
               
                 

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