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All Saints, Foulden
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The overwhelming late 13th and early 14th century character of the exterior is reminiscent of neighbouring Gooderstone, and the interior also has a similar feel to that of the church there, although the furnishings here are mostly modern. Anglicans have suffered more than most denominations from falling numbers, and as in several other Norfolk churches the chancel has been screened off by curtains to make a smaller church within a church. These provide a pleasing backdrop to what is an interesting 15th century screen dado, probably by the same artist as that at Gooderstone. Several figures still hide behind the tarrish brown paint applied by the Anglican iconoclasts in the 16th century, a reminder that at one time virtually all screen figures were hidden from sight. Indeed, William Dowsing, the puritan iconoclast of a century later, does not record seeing a single rood screen figure, in the journal he kept of his progress through several hundred churches in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, even though quite a number of the churches he inspected have rood screen figures today.
The most striking figures on the Foulden screen are the four Evangelists on the gates. St Matthew and St Mark on the northern gate have been restored. St John and St Luke on the other have not, but are still discernible. St Matthew looks up in apparent surprise as an angel delivers to him the opening words of his Gospel on a scroll, and St Mark's lion sprawls lazily at the Evangelist's feet. As is common in the iconography of the time, the four are given wings, but they are not angels as has been recorded in some sources. The north side range is completely blank, but the six figures on the south side include St Jerome (his cardinal's hat vivid through the paint) and at least one other is a Bishop, and thus probably one of the other Latin Doctors, perhaps St Augustine. Hauntingly, a crowned Saint peers through the iconoclastic gloom with piercing blue eyes.
Spectacular 17th and 18th century monuments, which would overwhelm a smaller church, are left to sulk in silence on the chancel and nave walls. Sam Mortlock thought the 1656 memorial to Robert Longe was pompous, and it is hard to disagree. They seem peculiarly out of sorts with the mystery of the screen, as if symptomatic of the change of emphasis after the Reformation from the authority of the priesthood to the power of the nobility.
Simon Knott, July 2008
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