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

St Mary, Ditchingham

Ditchingham's massive tower, rather austere in winter twilight

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West door of the tower A curiosity - a path of foot stones from the graveyard Passion symbols

    St Mary, Ditchingham
The north side - lots of 19th century additions   Ditchingham, a Norfolk suburb of the Suffolk town of Bungay, is famous for two things - H Rider Haggard and the Community of All Hallows. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon's Mines and She, was a local farmer, just one of the family to provide churchwardens over the years, and an interesting person - he had pronounced radical views, advocating a system of National Insurance thirty years before it was introduced; it is said that the East Norfolk Conservative Association were much relieved when he failed to win the constituency for them. His father was notorious when a churchwarden, because he was in the habit of writing down the names of those who arrived late, brandishing a big fob watch as he did so.

St Mary is set away from the village, in open countryside among a maze of Norfolk lanes. The tower is massive, visible in all directions for miles, and the passion symbols survive from the late 15th century building. Contemporary with them are two pairs of brasses to the Bozard family.

Half a mile to the east of the church there is a striking collection of 19th century ecclesiastical and institutional buildings. Ditchingham was one of the hotspots of the 19th century Anglican revival, its high anglo-catholicism encouraged and bankrolled by the Sucklings of Barsham and the Crosses of Shipmeadow, two nearby Suffolk villages. All Hallows convent was built to retrain 'fallen women' for employment, and it is still the largest Anglican community in England, running a hospital as well as a retreat centre and an outreach centre in Norwich. There are two churches in the complex, so I will tell you more about the community when I get round to visiting them. The figurehead of the Movement at St Mary was William Scudamore, Rector here for the middle forty years of the century. There is a fine memorial to him in the church, and I suspect the massive tomb in the north-west corner of the churchyard is his as well, although the inscription was too eroded for me to be sure. Much of his anglo-catholic paraphernalia survives, although I don't think the church today is in that particular wing.

Ditchingham has one of the most imposing war memorials in Norfolk, a vast black marble affair with a life-size bronze effigy designed by Derwent Wood. Unusually, it includes a nurse among the soldiers. Another curiosity is the 19th century memorial window to former Rectors.

A curiosity is the collection of graveyard foot stones that are used to pave the ground outside the south door. Presumably they were removed from the graveyard as a result of the 1960s enthusiasm for automated lawn-mowing. There is something similar nearby at
Hedenham.

Simon Knott, January 2005

   

Looking west Looking east through the 19th century screen Sanctuary Rider Haggard memorial window Derwent Wood's massive war memorial
Anglo-Catholic curiosum in the sanctuary Late 15th century Bozard brass 19th century memorial to former Rectors 15th century Bozard brass
Chancel ceilure Ledger to the Rider Haggards Samuel Pycroft, former Rector William Scudamore, former Rector Massive 19th century tombchest, possibly to William Scudamore, with

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