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

St Martin, Fincham

Fincham

Fincham

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    St Martin, Fincham

Fincham is a busy village to the east of Downham Market, and it has one of the largest churches in the area, a typically splendid late medieval Norfollk church. Simon Cotton tells me that the tower is clearly the work of two different architects, one of whom also worked not far off at Northwold. Bequests of 1458 and 1476 paid for its construction. 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 15th Century rebuilding and the roof and screen have been retained, the interior is almost entirely 19th Century in character, with one fabulous exception.

This is the famous Fincham font, one of the most interesting Norman fonts in East Anglia. It sits foursquare on a little raised platform., and each of the four sides is divided into three panels, making twelve in all. The south side depicts the birth of Christ, with Joseph and Mary in the first two panels and the third depicting the infant Christ in the manger. An ox and ass low above him, facing out of the panel, and above is a star. This will guide the three Magi who are represented on the eastern side. The north side depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with the Tree of Knowledge between them. This has been restored in recent years, but left a different colour to show this. Adam hides his nakedness, and holds his head in despair. In contrast, the western side depicts the Baptism of Christ. In the centre, a dove descends onto Christ who stands in a square font. John the Baptist stands on the right and what appears to be a Bishop is on the left.

font: Nativity font: Three Magi
font: Baptism of Christ font: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge

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.

In the chancel are two 19th century memorials to the Hebgin family. Normally, I would have passed them by without a second glance, but Cameron Newham pointed out to me 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 such things.

Simon Knott, June 2021

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looking east looking west
south doorway 1939-1945 Presentation in the Temple holy water stoup (19th Century insertion in dole niche?)
The Law was given by Moses only surviving son Thomas and Elizabeth Townshend

   
               
                 

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