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

St Margaret, Clenchwarton


window Clenchwarton south porch

    St Margaret, Clenchwarton

Faith, Charity, Hope   The villages west of King's Lynn almost run into each other. West Lynn straggles out, there are a few fields, and then the houses get pleasanter and eventually become Clenchwarton. The road is busy, but off to the south set in bungalow suburbia is St Margaret. Compared with some of the exotica around here, St Margaret is refreshingly conventional - pretty much all of a late 14th/early 15th century piece, and no transepts, separate tower or modern chancel in sight. A mixture of carstone and flint, the church is very attractive, and slightly ramshackle, as if it was made out of chocolate chip cookies.

There's no keyholder notice, and in three visits I had never found it open, so I tracked down the address of the rector and prepared to do battle.

Well, he couldn't have been nicer. He was a very friendly chap with a large white beard in the Russian Orthodox manner. He gave me the key, we chatted for a while about visiting churches, and then he showed me the shortcut to the church through his garden. The key was to the vestry, and although I usually prefer not to enter a church at the east (it confuses me and I forget to photograph things) I found it to be a small, lovely church inside. My favourite thing of all is the 1928 window at the west end of the north side of the nave by Hardman & Co. It depicts two angels as Faith and Hope, and Christ as Charity. Curly-haired, serious-faced children play at their feet, pretty without being mawkish, and scenes illustrate the virtue below each figure. The window remembers Ellen Mary Stevenson and her work for the Girls' Friendly Society, which was a late 19th Century Anglican society for girls in service away from home. The Society still exists with a different function today.

Pevsner, or his revising editor, confuses the glass in the chancel, but the east window is probably by Charles Gibbs. The side window depicting Amazonian images of Saints Margaret and Catherine is rather good, but it isn't obvious which workshop produced it. Could it be by Clayton & Bell?

Adoration of the Magi children of Faith children of Hope St Margaret St Catherine

The overall feel of the church is of a peaceful spirituality in the Anglo-catholic tradition - not as spiky as neighbouring West Lynn, but very much to my taste. However, I am bound to say that, as with anywhere that a locked church is so close to the homes it is meant to serve, you get a sense that here is the Church of England in its last days, no longer serving all but a home for a small group of determined worshippers growing older and fewer by the year, defending themselves against the world with rituals that become increasingly meaningless as the distance between the church and its outsiders grows. One day there'll be hardly any of them left, and the last few will turn out the lights and lock the door behind them for the last time. Thank God that parishes like this are now few and far between.

I took a last look around, knowing that I'd probably never come back. The altar and lectern were dressed properly for Lent, the only church all day where I saw this. A pretty modern madonna and child sits on an image niche in the north wall of the nave. High above the tower arch hangs a timber from a former roof painted with the name J Wardale, who was a churchwarden in 1742. This is such a well-kept church, such a sense of being loved, it seems such a shame that it is not a numinous gift to those who live around it.

Before the church gets sold off for use as a playschool or a mosque or something, do take the opportunity to see the memorial to Francis Forster, who died in 1741. When the terrible inundation Feb 16 1735 threatened the destruction of this whole Level, it reports, He with unshaken resolution, when all around him droop'd under their misery, opposed the Flood, repaired the broken ramparts, and sav'd the land from that fatal ruin with which the next assault must have overwhelm'd it.

  Lenten altar frontal

Simon Knott, April 2017

altar looking east
Faith Charity Hope St Margaret St Catherine
Blessed Virgin and Child Adoration, Crucifixion, Ascension Faith, Charity, Hope Ascension, Resurrection font

J Wardale Ch(urch) W(arden) 1742

skull under draped crossed bones


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