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St Mary, East Ruston
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As ever, the Churches Conservation Trust prove to be wonderful custodians, and this building was in real danger in the years before they took it over in the early eighties. Largely a construction of the immediate post-Black Death period, it had been a big church; but the north aisle was demolished in the 18th century, hence the rather unusal red brick replacement wall. The view from the south-east is more conventional.
You step into a wide, light space, cleared of clutter and an oasis of stillness and silence after the busy traffic outside. The most striking feature is the rather remarkable font. The base is surrounded by wicked looking demons, who stand out all the more because of the rather stark column that rises from among them. Some of the images on the panels are rather odd. A bearded head with long curly hear surronded by a jagged nimbus may be intended as God the Father, but looks like nothing so much as a Greek God. All of them may well be the fantasies of the 19th century restorers, who were at work here in the 1880s.
The great survival here is the rood screen. I wonder how many times I have written that sentence on this site, but the screen here really is quite extraordinary. Its oddness is first apparent in that, although it survives to loft floor level, all the tracery above the dado has been removed. But what makes it strangest of all is the width of the opening - in proportion to the size of the screen, the widest in East Anglia - and the two lions which flank the entrance. I do not think there is another screen at all like it anywhere in Norfolk or Suffolk. There are just eight figures - the four Evangelists, with an angel representing St Matthew, and the four Latin Doctors. The arrangement is similar to that at Morston.
The lightness and simplicity of the interior are perfect foils to font and screen, although there is a relatively unexciting Presentation of the Temple in the south aisle east window. The five light east window of the chancel is surprisingly wide for what is a relatively small chancel.
Simon Knott, November 2008
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