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Our Lady and St Margaret, Calthorpe
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and St Margaret, Calthorpe
St Margaret sits in a walled churchyard above the narrow lanes of this tiny village. In appearance it is almost entirely 19th century; only the chancel was not refaced in unknapped flint by the Victorians, but these have mellowed with age and only the tower still appears rather stark. The east window predates the Victorians, dating from a restoration in the 1820s - with its narrow interlocking tracery and clear glass panes it is very pleasing.
Coming from the in-yer-face Anglo-catholic spikiness of neighbouring Erpingham, I hoped that I would find something similar at Calthorpe, and I was not disappointed. This is another sacramental interior, but differs from Erpingham in that it is very simple, the altar dressed in plain colours, the stations restrained, the rood simple. I might have thought myself inside a modern Catholic church rather than an Anglican one. The nave altar in particular might have stepped straight out of the Diocese of East Anglia rather than the Diocese of Norwich.
There is deliciously green font, with a towering 20th century font cover, typical of the style in red and green. But the Anglo-catholic tradition at Calthorpe probably predates it. The Rector here for forty years of the 19th century was Samuel Shepheard, who in his later years was received into the Catholic Church along with his daughters. When he died, they built the Catholic chapel of St John of the Cross at Aylsham in his memory; it now forms the sacristy of the modern church there.
If he could come back, he might well find that the Mass and Benedection still celebrated here at Anglican Calthorpe were more traditionalist in character than the post-Vatican II liturgy of the modern Catholic Church, his adopted home.
Simon Knott, September 2005
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