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


St Nicholas, Dilham

Dilham: a college dining hall with a large flower vase attached

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reserved the clean lines of the east end tomb chests wash against the south side   

  St Nicholas, Dilham
what is left of the 1835 round tower   St Nicholas is visible off in the fields from the Wroxham road, but from this angle appears very odd; you need a second glance to reassure yourself that it really is a church. There is a truncated round tower which has all the appearance of a vast flower vase, and as you get closer you can see the clean lines and unknapped flint that suggests a considerable restoration.

In fact, nothing that you see is ancient, and virtually all of it is 20th century. The church was built in the 1930s, and the stump of tower comes from only a hundred years earlier. I'm not convinced that it has ever been any higher - I think the 'ruins' against the west wall were a folly. The medieval building was demolished in the 18th century and replaced with a new building. This appears to have been done on the cheap, and 19th century additions and elaborations, like the round tower, could not prolong its life. So, it was demolished and completely rebuilt, the stump retained as a baptistery.

When you know this, you can see at once the clean 1930s lines, the Gothic revival stripped of all Victorian neuroses. Inside and out, there is a modernistic simplicity to this articulate rendering of Norfolk vernacular; even the angel roof is understated. An American correspondent of mine, on seeing these pictures, said that it was like a college dining hall, and I think that is exactly right.

St Nicholas successfully combines this simplicity with an air of Anglo-catholic devotion. The stations of the cross are most unusual, large format photographs of what appear to be artist's dummies set in the positions of the way of the cross. Survivals from the old church include a medieval font and the organ, and a large piece of lead set in a wooden frame. It has a long Latin inscription on it, and with the limited resources I could drag up from school days I took it to be from the roof, since it seems to describe the demolition of the old west end and the building of the round tower in 1835.

As at Worstead, there are photographs of everyone on the war memorial, which is a lovely thing to do. And this is a lovely church, a simple yet splendid modern building set alone in the barley fields, well used, much loved, and open to pilgrims and strangers every day.

Simon Knott, April 2005


1930s perpendicular view east - again, clean lines chancel baptistery inside the tower view west
lead from the tower roof war memorial organ
St Nicholas images of the old church on display station
faces from the war memorial rebuilding plaque vulgar monument in the graveyard

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