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St Andrew, North Burlingham
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Andrew, North Burlingham
For a church with such a grand aspect, the graveyard is surprisingly tight on the south side, and the restored flintwork is perhaps a little overneat. As with Blofield, a couple of miles off, this church has an urban feel. It would be quite at home in a town, and the sense of this inside is accentuated by the busy way the pews crowd together. You feel that this is not a quiet backwater, but a church where there is life.
However, as enthusiastic as the Victorians no doubt were at North Burlingham, there are many survivals of older times, and the greatest of these is the last medieval roodscreen in East Anglia, and one of the last in England. It is dated 1536, by which date it must already have seemed a defiant statement. As if in response, the faces of the Saints have been excised more violently than any others in East Anglia, by the cruel, puritan hands of Edward VI's Taleban. They must have been beautiful once. They depict, from the north, St Withburga holding a church and with deer at her feet and St Benedict with devils at his feet, (it is worth recalling that these two represented Holy Orders a year or so before the cruel dissolution of the monasteries), St Edward the Confessor, St Thomas of Canterbury (most viciously excised of all, he championed European Catholicism against the crown), St John the Baptist, St Cecilia, St Walstan (Norfolk's worker saint, again thoroughly disapproved of by the Anglican reformers), St Catherine, and St Etheldreda. There is an unidentified male figure between St Catherine and St Etheldreda.
There is another fine medieval screen set into the tower arch, but it did not actually come from this church at all. Along with several of the memorials, and a couple of late medieval brasses, it came from the ruined church of St Peter up the road. There are beautiful medallion faces, and the angels carry shields with the keys of St Peter in them. You can't help thinking that it would have been rather imposing in its original church.
Simon Knott, November 2007
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