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St Edmund, Costessey
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The unfinished tower is surmounted by an elegant red brick bell stage which looks as if it might be on a visit from southern Europe, and a lead covered spirelet, which replaced a wooden spire in 1930. The tower is set against the northern end of the west wall of the nave, but there is no south aisle, suggesting that the nave was rebuilt shortly before the Reformation. In any case, the building was thoroughly renewed in the 19th century, most of the window tracery dating from this time. The flushwork panelling on the heavily restored south porch suggests that this must have been a fine structure once.
You step into a large, plain interior, with attractive brick flooring. The western end of the nave was screened in the 19th century to form a kind of baptistery, and the 14th century font has raised shields on its panels which were presumably once painted. Oddly, just beside the entrance into the nave is a doorbell, which raised the interesting possibility that you had to ring it to gain admittance, but which I think is actually there so that the organist can be informed when the bride has arrived for her wedding.
You step through the western screen, and again the feeling is one of a quiet simplicity, overwhelmingly 19th century in character but with a number of interesting earlier survivals. An early 16th Century brass inscription asks us to Pray for the Soule of William Wood, and the contemporary delicate screen must have been a fine one judging by what has survived. The chancel arch above seems very high in proportion.
Many of the nave furnishings are believed to have come from Booton. Beyond, in the chancel, are memorials to the famous Jerningham family of Costessey Hall, perhaps the most steadfast of all Norfolk's recusant Catholic families, but as Lords of the Manor they were remembered here in the days before Catholic emancipation. By the middle of the 19th Century, Costessey would be that rare thing, an English parish whose population was almost entirely Catholic, and where the village school was run by the Catholic Church. The ledger stones of the Jerninghams pave the sanctuary, but the most elegant essay to their memory can be found on the fine classical structure by Thomas Rawlins to the four year old Mary Jerningham, who died at Costessey Hall on 16th January 1773:
Ah! Venerate this hallow'd Ground
Simon Knott, May 2010
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