Bexwell Fincham Stradsett
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St Martin, Fincham
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Fincham is a fairly large village, and this is a fairly large church. Simon Cotton tells me that the tower is the work of two separate architects, one of whom also worked at Northwold. Bequests of 1458 and 1476 paid for it. As is usually the way with such places, the Victorians were very enthusiastic in bringing this building up to scratch, and so although the exterior still speaks of the magnificent late medieval rebuilding, and the roof and screen have been retained, the interior is almost entirely 19th century, with one fabulous exception.
This is the famous Fincham font, one of the best Norman fonts in East Anglia. It probably came from the lost neighbouring church of Fincham St Michael, and sits foursquare on a little raised platform. Each side has three panels, making twelve in all, and each side depicts a scene from the Bible. On the south side is the nativity; Joseph and Mary inhabit the first two panels, while the third depicts the infant Christ in the manger. Two oxen low above him, facing out of the panel, and above is a magnificent star. This will guide the three Magi on the eastern panels. The north panels depict Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with the tree of Knowledge between them restored by the Victorians. Adam hides his nakedness, and holds his head in despair. In contrast, the western panels depict a magnificent Baptism of Christ, with John the Baptist on the right and a Bishop on the left. In the centre, a dove descends onto Christ who appears to be standing in a font. You can see all these images below.
Aside from this, the delicate screen has been repainted with vines and flowers, while above enough of the roof remains to suggest that it must have been glorious, perhaps in the style and to the scale of Mildenhall, across the Suffolk border. A date reads 1488.
In the chancel are two 19th century memorials to the Hebgin family. Normally, I would have passed them by without a second glance, but DD pointed out that they provide an object lesson in the development of memorials. The easterly memorial, of William and Mary, is delicately carved by a London artist. The other, to John and Susan of a generation later, appears identical, but on closer inspection is actually a poor copy, probably by a Downham Market jobbing mason. Perhaps there had been a downturn in the fortunes of the family, or simply in this out of the way place it was not considered unusual to do so.
Simon Knott, December 2004
Bexwell Fincham Stradsett
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