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All Saints, Briston
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Briston is a large village, and it takes something of its character from being almost joined on to Melton Constable, which was a railway town in the 19th century. There is a 19th century industrial quality to it that is not unattractive. At its heart is its church, and All Saints was a round-towered church until 1795, when the tower collapsed; this was not an auspicious date for rebuildings, and so a plain, functional west wall with a west door took its place. At the same time, the decaying south porch was removed and the south door filled in, leaving All Saints, perhaps uniquely in East Anglia, as a medieval church without either a south or north doorway. That to the north had gone when the aisle was demolished and the arcade filled in. You would never know there was a tower, as no trace remains, and there is a fairly ugly yellow brick bell turret at the top of the western gable.
The chancel weeps dramatically to the north, and you enter through the priest door on the south side. This is essentially a Victorian church in a medieval shell, but it is not without interest. The sedilia and double piscina in the sanctuary must have been absolutely splendid, and note the double credence shelves above the piscinas. On the opposite side of the sanctuary is a grand old iron chest.
There are a couple of medieval brasses, one reset on a wall, and in a glass case at the back of the church is a cello made out of iron in the late 17th century by a local blacksmith. Perhaps most poignant of all is the chancel screen of the 1890s, which unusually has a brass dedicatory inscription in Latin. It remembers the Rector, who was here for about forty years, and was presumably responsible for the way All Saints looks inside today. He would certainly recognise it if he ever came back.
Simon Knott, November 2005
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