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St John the Baptist, Bressingham
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the Baptist, Bressingham
What is most impressive about the clerestory is its individual windows. There are eight of them on each side, and each window is in a two light traceried late Perpendicular pattern. It is a mark of a very late rebuilding here, in 1527, the older tower and chancel being incorporated into the magnificent new structure.
This is a part of Norfolk where there are many large churches, urban and triumphal in style, but in almost every case they remain full of character despite the tendency of the Victorians to make proper town churches of buildings on such a scale. St John the Baptist does not have the urban, anonymous feel that you might fear, and you step into a neatly kept, obviously well loved, rural space. The care obviously lavished here belies what is a verey small congregation, who should be congratulated.
In terms of medieval splendour, these bench ends aren't as spectacular as some of Norfolk's more famous sets - Wiggenhall St Mary and Wiggenhall St Germans, for example - but they are a precious survival of the English Church before it swallowed itself, and as such deserve to be as well known as the Trunch font canopy, the Walsoken font and the Oxborough tombs.
There are scatterings of medieval glass, a fine and unusual Charles II royal arms, some unusual early 19th century glass, a set of stocks and a funeral bier, all giving a sense of church with a character all of its own. One thing you might miss, though, if you did not know it was there, is the little barrel organ in one corner of the nave. There are only about half a dozen of these left in East Anglia; a metal cyclinder is loaded into the back and turned, little teeth operating pipes to play a tune. The beauty of it was that barrels were obtainable for both sacred and secular tunes, allowing the organ to be used both in the church and on the village green. Perhaps the mingling of these worlds helped create the late 19th century enthusiasm for new hymns and new tunes, leading to the development of the English Hymnal and Hymns Ancient and Modern - a new renaissance of a different kind, perhaps.
Simon Knott, January 2007
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