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

St Peter, Brampton

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first view from the farmyard war memorial sprawling St Peter

  St Peter, Brampton
precious survival - Madonna and child   I pushed my bike for half a mile or so along footways and bridges. I had just visited the beautiful church at Burgh-next-Aylsham after a lonely ride down narrow, hilly lanes from the north. Now, I was in the watermeadows of the Bure, the lazy river winding aimlessly between Burgh and Brampton, making direct access impossible for cars; they have to go the long way round. This was one of the highlights of the day for me - still the sun beat down, and my heart was full. A doleful swan regarded me with hope from beneath a sagging footbridge. When she saw I had nothing for her to eat, she snorted and turned away huffily.

I crossed the bridge, went up a muddy track and came out in a farmyard, with a narrow road beyond. I could see the brick crown of St Peter above the trees, and as I got closer I could see bunting surrounding the churchyard, and a small marquee among the graves. What on earth was going on?

With some surprise, I found this church a hive of activity. There were about 20 people inside; it was their spring open day, with raffles, cups of tea and craft stalls. It sounds terrible, but it wasn't - they were mostly elderly people using the one building that was at their centre of their lives to celebrate another winter survived. I was pleased to be there, not least for the cup of tea I had been gasping for during the last thirty miles.

This church is heartily Victorianised inside, with tiles and pitch-pine benching. At some point, the arcade between the south aisle and the nave has been removed, presumably to allow a single roof span, and the result is a large, square space with the long, thin chancel off at one corner. It isn't possible to see the altar from most of the nave. You can see from the external photograph at the top quite how extreme this is. You might also notice the outline in the east wall of the aisle, suggesting that there was once a chancel aisle as well.

If you only read Cautley, you probably wouldn't bother to visit St Peter. For some reason, he fails to mention this church's one great treasure. But surprise, surprise, it has fine figure brasses, more than half a dozen of them, as well as numerous inscriptions, all to members of the Brampton family, half a century or so either side of the Reformation. Some, unfortunately, are remounted vertically on the wall and in the splay of a window (if there is ever a fire, they will melt and run like honey) but the best are in the sanctuary floor.

Best of all is the one that Pevsner unaccountably missed. It lies on the north side, a metal flower stand placed roughly on top of it. It shows Robert Brampton and his wife; they lie in shrouds, their inscriptions still intact, a shield between them. They gaze up at a perfect, precious and rare image of the Holy Mother of God and the Infant Christ. How on earth did that survive the Anglican and Puritan reformers? It felt like a secret, here.

Simon Knott, April 2005


view into the nave from  the chancel sanctuary Bramptons in their splendour Bramptons in their shrouds  memorial
more Bramptons inscriptions in a window splay vanishing Bramptons

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