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

All Saints, Brandon Parva

Brandon Parva

Brandon Parva Brandon Parva

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All Saints, Brandon Parva

This handsome, lonely church sits on its own at the end of a half mile track from the Barnham Broom to Mattishall road. Years of neglect left it feeling sad and empty, but a major restoration in the early years of the 21st Century have transformed it into a building that now feels cared for and much-loved. There is no village, and the entire parish has barely a dozen houses. The church as we see it today seems entirely of the Perpendicular period, so likely late 15th Century, although there was a major restoration in the 1850s.

You step through a perfunctory little porch into a wide open barn-like nave with a striking tower arch at the west end. Trailing vines entwine around the hood mould, and the whole piece sits on two massive heads. The arch is surmounted by one of several painted scriptural quotes so beloved of churches in the evangelical movement of the second half of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th Century, suggestive of a Low Church enthusiasm here. The nave is dominated by the large memorial to John Warner in the south-east corner, his bones tied up in a swag at the bottom. John died in 1702, and below on the wall is a very early post-Reformation painted wall memorial to his ancestor Richard Warner, who deceased the tenth daye of Maye 1587. On the floor in front of it is an oddly-shaped fragment of a 15th Century brass inscription, perhaps a palimpsest, the back of a previously reused brass. It asks us in Latin to pray for the soul of Christian Buck and to commend his soul to Almighty God. Other Warner memorials are in ledger stones set in the floor.

Here lyeth the bodie of Richard Warner who decesside the tenth daye of Maye Anno Dmi 1587 Pray for the soul of Christiane Buk and commend his soul to God
Richard Warner aged 7 yeares 1684 John Warner aged 21 yeares, 1702 Richard Warner aged 40 yeares, 1684 John Tidd Gent, late of Wells in Norfolk, 1758

The chancel arch is wide, and the off-centre chancel is dominated by a curious east window. The upper lights of the tracery are crammed in under a flattened arch. Mortlock thought it was a Victorian design, but it seems unlikely that they would have left us with something so inarticulate and so I think it must be earlier, perhaps a repair job of the the 18th Century. You can see from outside that the wall has been rebuilt at sometime with ragstone rather than flint, which probably explains its current bulge, ragstone not being an East Anglian material. The glass in the window dates from the early 20th Century and is by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, who forty years earlier had been one of the most innovative and exciting of the 19th Century workshops. However, like a number of the Victorian mass production companies they fell out of fashion in the new century, as the preference for small scale Arts and Crafts glass, and an inevitable drop in demand for stained glass in general, dealt them a blow. In fact, they struggled on until after the Second World War, but they would never know their former success again. The glass here depicts three events concerning the appearance of the Holy Spirit, with the Baptism of Christ in the centre flanked by the prophet Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones and St Peter on the Day of Pentecost. They are in the workshop's familiar early 20th Century autumnal colours and are all rather stern-faced and severe, I fear.

Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones (Heaton, Butler & Bayne, 1908) Baptism of Christ (Heaton, Butler & Bayne, 1908) St Peter on the day of Pentecost (Heaton, Butler & Bayne, 1908) Ezekiel/Baptism of Christ/St Peter (Heaton, Butler & Bayne, 1908)

The 1850s restoration reroofed the chancel, and two bosses which are generally assumed to have come from the old roof are on the organ and the Priest's chair. One depicts the pelican in its piety, feeding its chicks on blood, and the other a rather alarming dove coming into land. However, I don't think that these carvings are medieval at all, but probably early 20th Century creations set on old backing bosses.

As with a number of parish churches in this area, attendance was low on the day of the Census of Religious Worship in 1851, and suggest that the Victorian revival in the Church of England had still to properly reach this part of East Anglia. Just thirteen of the two hundred-odd inhabitants of the parish attended morning service that day, with thirty-one coming in the afternoon for the weekly sermon. Reverend Girling, the curate, claimed the averages were eighteen and fifty, making his excuses by saying that Sunday March 30th 1851 was a showery day, and the parish clerk and several others had to attend a funeral, in an adjoining parish of a member of their club and were therefore absent from church in the afternoon. It may well be that many of the scattered parish population were closer to Runhall and Welborne churches, the latter of which may already have had the beginnings of its future extreme High Church enthusiasm, but more likely the existence of several well-attended Methodist chapels in the neighbouring parishes is a clue to where Brandon Parva's churchgoers really were.

Simon Knott, December 2021

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looking east sanctuary looking west
font John Warner, 1702 John Tidd Gent who was born at Wells-next-the-Sea, 1758 Pelican in her Piety
I acknowledge One Baptism for the Remission of sins hymns pleasant and lovely in his life Sunday School
and when my voice is lost in death the soldiers of Brandon Parva (Beho)ld the Lamb of God


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