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St Andrew, Colton
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Norfolk is so big, that great swathes of it are little known. In the area between Wymondham, Dereham and Norwich there are perhaps fifty medieval churches, but only a handful of them - Ketteringham, the two Tuddenhams, Ringland - ever make it into the guidebooks. And yet, in any other county, Colton would be better known.
Take a look at St Andrew. Externally, it is what most East Anglian churches must have looked like in the early 14th century, in the years before the Black Death and the consequent rise of Perpendicular architecture. The Early English tower from the late 13th century, and the flowering of the Decorated style in the early 1300s, have left their mark in the window openings. But don't look too closely, or you may detect that some of them are, in fact, Victorian replacements.
It was built as late as the 1850s in an unashamedly Gothick style, a gift of the Daveney family whose ledger stones pave the nave and chancel. The organ, for which it was constructed, rises like a sea monster from the waves, and the gallery is fronted by brass eagles on perches. You can climb up to the gallery, and it is worth doing so, not only for the view eastwards and the close up of the George III royal arms, for there is a rare survival in the form of a wall painting on the west wall.
The church once had aisles, but the arcades were removed to widen the nave, states Pevsner categorically. This seems like nonsense to me. The nave simply isn't wide enough to have had arcades, and what appears to be the medieval rood beam still crosses the church from wall to wall under a later roof.
Some of the benches also appear to be old; a pair of two-headed goats butt each other in symmetry either side of a poppyhead. As the sun comes out, the light in the church changes from white to rose, and the freezing air is suddenly full of the promise of warmth to come.
Simon Knott, February 2006
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