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

St Andrew, Felmingham

Felmingham

Felmingham, 2006

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St Andrew, Felmingham

The imposing bulk of this tower can be seen for miles, its massive shape beside a sharp bend on the Aylsham to North Walsham road. There is something primitive about it, more like a castle keep than a church tower. This must have been a huge church once, but when you get closer it is to find a sedate and pleasing red brick church built in the 1740s. The great medieval churches of England were not built with congregational worship as a priority, and after the Reformation they were simply too big for their new purpose. This was not a problem if the parish was still able to maintain them, and even heat them, but if not then something would have to be done. At Bradfield a few miles off the aisles were demolished to reduce the size of the church, but here a more drastic solution was found and it was entirely rebuilt, perhaps on the plan of the former nave as it is still a long church, though a narrow one. You can see the roofline of the old church on the eastern face of the tower, and the tower arch underneath has been filled in with red brick, which is not unattractive.

The church you step into is plain and simple, clean and trim. As you would expect from an 18th Century rebuilding, there is no separation between nave and chancel, but the overall feel is as much of the modern day as of the time of the rebuilding. There was obviously a substantial Victorian reimagining of the interior bringing Decorated tracery to the windows and more suitable furnishings, though there are survivals of the earlier church still. The font, like several others in this area is a Purbeck marble job reset on a colonnade. Memorial brasses have been gathered together for display on the wall in the south-west corner of the nave. The most striking is the wholly secular heare lyeth the bodye of Robert Moone who disseased the 24 day of May anno doni 1591. A century earlier, English brass memorials had often beautiful lettering in Gothic script asking for prayers for the soul of the departed, but the Reformation put an end to all that. Meanwhile, in continental Europe, the Renaissance was in full flow. Such was the price we paid for puritanism.

There is some good late 19th and 20th Century glass, which Birkin Haward recorded as having been brought here from St Philip at Heigham in Norwich when that church was demolished in the 1970s. The mid-20th Century Ascension scene in the east window is unusual in design, and looks as if it might be by the William Morris of Westminster workshop. More interesting is the rectangular panel of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin which surely must be the work of Geoffrey Webb.

Norfolk's country churches bounced back from the covid epidemic fairly well, and by June many of them were open again. Sad to relate then that in this large benefice of eight parishes, Felmingham's was the only church which was open daily, and even then almost all of the church was cordoned off inside.

Simon Knott, July 2021

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font looking east chancel looking west
Ascension (1940s, Morris & Co? Brought from St Philip, Norwich in 1975) 19th Century Decorated Coronation of the Blessed Virgin (Geoffrey Webb? brought from St Philip, Norwich in 1975) Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Christ in the garden (1880s, brought from St Philip, Norwich in 1975)
heare lyeth the bodye

   
               
                 

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