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

All Saints, Earsham


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Earsham three cherubs on a tomb chest

    All Saints, Earsham
child angel musicians (Reginald Hallward, c1910)   Like neighbouring Ditchingham, Earsham is saved from being mere suburbia by the way the lazy Waveney sprawls, forcing water meadows between the Suffolk town of Bungay and its Norfolk adherents. Unlike Ditchingham, Earsham has a feel of remoteness; it is neatly bypassed by the road from Diss, and you wouldn't even know that Bungay was there, the illusion is so complete. Mind you, there are far worse towns than pretty Bungay of which to find yourself a suburb.

While Earsham successfully retains the feel of a small village, there can be no doubt that All Saints presents itself as a big church. This again is something of an illusion, sleight of hand if you like; the nave is quite long, but there are no aisles, no clerestory.

The chunky 14th century tower is surmounted by a rather squat spire, one of few in East Anglia. It is this, coupled with the substantial chancel, that creates the feel of a sprawling building. Stepping inside there is no doubt that length is the over-riding feature of the structure, the almost tunnel-like nave leading the eye into the bright, majestic high Tractarianism of the chancel.

But before that, the font. Earsham has one of East Anglia's thirty-odd seven sacrament fonts, but is rather different from others I have seen in that it is slim, with portrait-shaped reliefs. This require some simplification in the iconography, the Last Rites and Mass panels in particular being awkwardly squeezed into their spaces, but there is no doubt that this font is a most elegant example. The eighth 'odd panel out' is the Crucifixion. The whole thing is in excellent condition, and really deserves to be better known.

seven sacrament font

SE: Confession S: Matrimony SW: Last Rites W: the Crucifixion
NW: Ordination N: Baptism NE: Confirmation E: Mass

The collection of foreign glass in the east window is interesting. It was brought together here in 1810 by Samuel Yarrington from the import warehouse of JC Hampp, as at a number of churches on this side of Norfolk. The most striking are three continental panels, one depicting Joseph giving corn to his brothers, another showing the Last Rites from the seven sacraments sequence. The most curious appears, at first, to show the Annunciation - but the woman at the prayer desk with her back to the angel is clearly not Mary, but probably a donor. The inscription alludes to the part in the Gospel of St Luke where Elizabeth is told she is to become a mother, and so it was probably originally associated with a scene of St John the Baptist.

Joseph gives sacks of corn to his brothers (Continental, 16th Century?) donor/Annunciation? Seven Sacraments: Last Rites
Raphael watches as Tobias restores the sight of his father, Tobit Tobias leaves his father Tobit with Raphael Christ is mocked The meeting of Jacob and Rachel? Chastity? Lazarus and Dives God appears to Solomon in a dream St Anne, the Blessed Virgin and the Christ child Charlemagne, 16th Century The Triumph of Ecclesia over Synagogia Haman begging Esther for his life Destruction of idols in the reigns of Josiah, c.1525 plus oultre (arms of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor) head of a king plus oultre (arms of Charles V as Duke of Burgundy)

The roundels depict biblical scenes, mainly from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, but also allegorical subjects, including the Triumph of Ecclesia (the Church) over Synagogia (the Jewish tradition). This roundel also features a zodiac sequence.

The four roundels of the Evangelists are probably by Robert Allen the Lowestoft-based porcelain painter, or possibly even by Yarrington himself. They're a bit mawkish. Their symbols, obviously tame, look on adoringly like pets at their masters as the four men sit there writing; but the whole thing holds well together.

William Windham, the recipient of the grand memorial on the nave wall, died in 1730 having lost a limb in the defence of his country, which obviously leaves us wanting to know more. There are other Windam memorials, all well done.

All this apart, you come to Earsham for the glory of the late 19th century Anglo-catholic revival. Reginald Hallward's reredos features the Adoration of the Magi as well as groups of plump-cheeked, kitschy angels. Mortlock thought well enough of it in the 1980s, seeing it anticipate the work of Ninian Comper (who was busy near to here at Eye, Lound and Barsham) but today, in the early years of the 21st century, it is just about in the very peak of modern Christmas card fashion. It would be interesting to know if Hallward used children from the village as his models.
  early 19th Century angel (by Samuel Yarrington?)

Simon Knott, September 2016

looking east reredos by Reginald Hallward c1910 looking west
Dove of Holy Trinity descending (by Samuel Yarrington?) O Come Let Us (Reginald Hallward, c1910) Adoration of the Magi (Reginald Hallward, c1910) Adore Him (Reginald Hallward, c1910) God Grant Our Royal Queen In England Long To Reign 1953
St Matthew (by Samuel Yarrington?) St Mark (by Samuel Yarrington?) St Luke (by Samuel Yarrington?) St John (by Samuel Yarrington?)
Transfiguration east window collected by Samuel Yarrington crucified St John
for more than half a century in the Bank of Messrs Gurney & Co, Bungay Virtue, Morality & Religion appeared in so amiable a light softened and adorned by such a peculiar Affability 17 year old John Windam Dalling carried up to heaven by an angel John Spilling, GENT

the Earsham dead


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