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

St Andrew, Framingham Pigot

Framingham Pigot: one of the grandest and most ornate 19th century churches in East Anglia

Read the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to see them enlarged.
Robert Kerr, 1859 grand, but vernacular materials
stone tower, the weak point high ridged roofs west doorway porch apex and tower top that tower in full

    St Andrew, Framingham Pigot
gorgeous chancel roof   I know I go on about this, but it never ceases to impress me that you can be barely half a dozen miles from Norwich and still feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere. Take St Andrew, for instance; its minaret-like tower, peeping above distant trees as you negotiate the narrow lanes to the north and east of the town of Poringland, eventually resolves into this grand 19th century confection in the fields. There are a couple of cottages in view, but that's all.

Until the 19th century there was a ramshackle round-towered church here, but what you see today is all of a piece, the 1859 work of Robert Kerr. George Christie, who lived at the hall, paid for it.

Christie is a good example of the kind of energetic, beneficient squire you occasionally got in East Anglia. He was the principal land owner and employer, and there was no doubt who was in charge in the parish. Paternalistic and earnest, he rebuilt all the cottages on his estates, as well as providing a lecture room and a schoolroom. Reasoning that a rundown church was not giving the right impression of the Kingdom of God to his workers, he had it demolished. In its place he commissioned one of the grandest and most ornate rural 19th century churches in East Anglia.

The nave and chancel are tall, with great ridge-backed roofs. The tower is offset on the north side, rather unusually, as if this was a church designed for some shoe-horned plot in Kentish Town, but came to earth in deepest rural Norfolk instead. Pleasingly, the main material is flint, with freestone details. The only exception is the tower, which is built of stone. It's the only thing about it that doesn't really work.

As I say, Framingham Pigot is on the outskirts of Poringland; but it has fortunately managed to escape being part of that most cold and unwelcoming of all Norfolk benefices, and you'll find it open or accessible. Because of this, you can step inside to an interior that is fully High Church, Tractarian in design, a relatively early example for East Anglia. This is enhanced by an excellent collection of windows, most of which appear to be by Hardman & Co.

I say unto thee arise Sower and Good Samaritan St John and St Edwin Suffer the children to come to me
All the church shall worship thee wise and foolish virgins alcove in the lower tower

Directly opposite the south doorway is what seems to be a split-level transept, but is actually the base of the tower. I assume that originally it was intended that the lower storey be a baptistry, and the upper storey an organ loft. However, neither are now in use for that purpose. On the ground floor is a delicious little Lady altar, and the organ now sits at the west end, blocking the main west doors. On either side of it there are college seats, as if Christie originally had even grander plans. Today they are inaccessible, and used for storage.

High above the chancel arch is a stylised doom, with Christ seated in judgement, St Michael and two flanking angels. They won't be to everyone's taste, and you wouldn't want to see them everywhere, but I am glad that they exist here at least. Beyond, the chancel is similarly ornate, with a gorgeous painted roof and impressive heads in the corbels. In the sanctuary itself is a pillar piscina which appears to be old. Could it be the last remaining survival from the old church? I suppose that it is as likely that Kerr got it from elsewhere. But there is also a medieval brass inscription, another touchstone to the past.

In this part of Norfolk there are several grand Victorian rebuildings, but this one is the best. The grandness of the features is to scale, and you have to remind yourself that this is not huge. It is a smashing church, at once magnificent and intimate. You know that a wholly 19th century building that continues to feel alive, and which still offers something to modern worship, is a rare beast; this is one of them.

  chancel arch corbel

Simon Knott, March 2006


looking east font looking west sanctuary chancel
college stalls at the west end Lady altar doom two storey base to tower in the sanctuary


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