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St Margaret, Garvestone

Garvestone

Garvestone (photographed in 2005) Garvestone (photographed in 2005)

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St Margaret, Garvestone

The busy Wymondham to Dereham road threads though this village, and the church sits in the middle of the village beside the road, a landmark. The tree-shrouded churchyard sprawls to the south of the church, and is a setting for a building that was pretty much entirely rebuilt between the middle years of the 14th Century and the middle years of the 15th Century. Probably the nave came first, and then the chancel and tower. Robert Martyn's bequest in 1446 of 20d to making bells presumably coincided with the tower's completion. The north side, seen from the road, is rather stark despite the Perpendicular windows. They sit rather low in the wall. However, their counterpoints across the church are set within a lower south aisle, more pleasingly in proportion. There is no clerestory, a single roof over nave and aisle coming down lower on this side.

You enter from the north, and see at once that without the south aisle the nave would feel narrow and tall. The arcade to the aisle dates from the middle of the 14th Century, making it the earliest thing here. The only old survival is the font, which is presumably 15th Century, the panels bearing shields set in what Pevsner calls crinkly seaweed leaves. Otherwise, the overwhelming feel is of the church's 19th Century restoration. The east window of about 1910 depicts the crucifixion and is presumably by Heaton, Butler & Bayne in their customary style. It is curiously similar to the east window at Thuxton, a mile or so off. The other glass in the west window depicting the Instruments of the Passion may be by the same workshop.

The population of Garvestone at the time of the 1851 census was 421, making it a large village for this part of Norfolk. The Reverend FEJ Valpy, Rector of Garvestone, recorded in his return to the census that his income from tithe and glebe was 265 a year, about 50,000 in today's money. In response to the enquiry about his income from fees he responded trifling, and as to his other income he replied too trifling to mention. Perhaps he was right to be defensive, for he admitted that the regular attendance on a Sunday morning was just 35 parishioners, fewer than one in twelve of the parish population, an exceptionally low figure in this part of Norfolk. These were outnumbered by the scholars who had no choice but to be there. The Sunday afternoon sermon, always more popular in East Anglia than divine worship, attracted a more respectable 90 people on average, but this was still low. Where else might the Reverend Valpy's parishioners have been? The village had a Primitive Methodist chapel which claimed an average attendance of just 40, and even a Church of the Latter Day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons, who recorded only 20 attendants. It may have been that the parishioners were heading off to the large non-conformist chapels in Dereham, but they certainly weren't worshipping here.

Simon Knott, January 2024

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looking east chancel looking west
font font (photographed in 2005)
angels crucifixion

   
 
               
                 

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