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St Mary, Gayton Thorpe
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Stepping inside is a bit of a disappointment, because the interior cannot match the beauty of the exterior. However, Gayton Thorpe church does have one of the great medieval treasures of Norfolk, one of the forty-odd Seven Sacrament font series. This is rather cruder than most, with no cusping or tracery, but simple carvings set in plain frames. However, some of the representations are particularly interesting, and the eighth 'odd' panel is a representation of the Blessed Virgin and child. Apart from this one, and the Last Rites panel, the font is in pretty good condition. There has been little iconoclasm here.
The Blessed Virgin is the easterly panel, and then anti-clockwise from there are Baptism (NE), the Priest filling the font with water while the mother holds the baby; Ordination (N), the ordinand, unusually, standing rather than kneeling, and a dove descending on his head; Confession (NW), the confessee kneeling at a shriving bench before the Priest, while the devil sneaks off behind her; Mass (W), perhaps the most interesting representation here, the Priest dispensing Communion to kneeling communicants while a houseling cloth catches the crumbs; Matrimony (SW) a conventional arrangement; Confirmation (S), another conventional arrangement, and Last Rites (SE), a rather ambitious 3D effect with figures standing on both sides of the bed.
Apart from the font, this is just a typical small, rural parish church, and none the worse for being so. Two slight curiosities are the pair of unmatched corbel heads supporting the chancel arch - you can see where the arch has been cut away above them to accomodate the rood beam - and a rather stark 18th century reredos which looks as if it has been borrowed from a stage set. The church is obviously loved; it appears well-kept and well-used, and is a pleasure to visit.
Simon Knott, October 2006
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