The Burnhams
Deepdale I Norton I Overy I Priory I St Henry I Sutton I Thorpe I Ulph I Westgate

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

All Saints, Burnham Thorpe

Burnham Thorpe: remote

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tower secretive great east window

  All Saints, Burnham Thorpe

This is the most remote and secretive of the Burnhams, hidden away among narrow lanes about two miles south-east of Burnham Market. However, it is very hard to be alone in this church, because, although Nelson's father was Rector of most of the Burnhams, this was the one where the Rectory was, and consequently where Nelson was born.

I have no great axe to grind one way or the other about Napoleonic War heroes, and I can certainly think of other English men and women more deserving of the fame, but I do find the Nelson phenomenon interesting. The Rectory where he was born no longer exists, but still they come in their droves, and the church car park is bigger than the churchyard. Perhaps it is because the story of Trafalgar is easily grasped, or that his stubbornness ("I see no ships") and his tenderness ("kiss me, Hardy" - or was it kizmet?) are seen as so quintessentially English. There is a temptation to think that, like that of King Alfred and Oliver Cromwell, Nelson's modern fame is a product of Victorian enthusiasm. In fact Nelson was a hero from the start, and John Henry Newman (as true and brave an Englishman in many ways) recorded that his earliest childhood memory was of seeing candles burning in a window to celebrate victory at Trafalgar.

Whatever, I am pleased to report that All Saints makes no particular capital out of its famous son; there is a small display detailing the events of his life, and the flags at the west end of the nave are the biggest I have ever seen in a church, but otherwise this is a neat, welcoming parish church that is obviously well-used and well-loved.

There was money for an extensive Victorianisation, and so the tiles are a bit daunting, but the pews have all been removed now and replaced with modern chairs, which always looks good. Much of the window tracery is replaced, including, I think, that vast east window, but the lack of coloured glass is another benefit, and Thorpe's great treasure is easier to see because of it. This is the large brass to WIlliam Calthorpe in the chancel. It dates from the 1420s, and shows him beneath a canopy, two little dogs under his feet, two hawks at the top singing his praises. It is unusually complete. Military brasses can be dull, but this one is unusually characterful.

Barmy Arthur Mee fantasised about the young Nelson contemplating the portrait before making his career choices; in stone he still does, from a bust on the north chancel wall.

  Horatio Nelson

Simon Knott, May 2005

 

looking east purbeck marble font organ looking west: big flags 
William Calthorpe Nelson memorial aisle chapel
brass detail sedilia remaining glass at the east end

The Burnhams
Deepdale I Norton I Overy I Priory I St Henry I Sutton I Thorpe I Ulph I Westgate

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