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All Saints, Bircham Newton
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Saints, Bircham Newton
I don't know this part of Norfolk at all well. I climbed the road up from Great Bircham without really knowing what to expect. St Mary at Great Bircham was a big church, but as I came into Bircham Newton after little more than a fleeting glimpse of fields, I saw that All Saints was something quite different, a small church with much to show of its Norman origins. A hilltop church, but the most striking thing was that the long graveyard beyond the church was almost completely submerged in a sea of waist-high yellow flowers. I get so used to seeing churchyards trimmed within an inch of their lives by August that I did wonder for a second if All Saints was still in use, but I need not have worried.
I stepped into an interior which is nothing short of an utter delight. The rugged font, melting like a big fat cheese, sits on the stone flagged floor, and to the east spreads a delicious range of mid-19th Century box pews. This is the result of a gentle restoration of 1858 under the auspices of one P Jarrett, churchwarden, who had his name proudly inscribed on the north side westernmost pew. Mr Jarrett was probably the kind of churchwarden who didn't know much but knew what he liked, and thank goodness he stuck to his guns here. He was probably getting on in years, because the restoration harks back to the English Church of half a century earlier, and the two decker pulpit and the Hanoverian arms above the chancel arch are a truer mark of the church's character. Like the font, the chancel arch looks as if it might be melting. There is no coloured glass, and light filled the church on this summer afternoon, slanting in from the south and warming the woodwork, casting images of windows across the stone floor.
Simon Knott, August 2016
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