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St Faith, Gaywood, Kings Lynn
It should also be recognised that the Norfolk Churches site is not intended to be a neutral record of the churches of the county, but as an ongoing narrative of the experience of my visits to them.
However, given that my visit to Gaywood church had not been pleasant, it was unsurprising that a member of the congregation might find the account offensive reading. It was, I thought, an accurate record of my visit, but I had also explained some of the feelings I'd experienced during the visit, and written down some of my reflections afterwards.
The letter from the solicitor went on to explain the appalling workload of the Rector of this Parish. I was quite shocked, that so much was expected of one individual. I had to agree that the Rector here is a very busy person.
I do not believe that the original article was libellous. However, as an act of Christian charity, I have agreed to tone it down. I have removed the name of the person concerned, and I have removed most of the description of the way I felt. One particular feeling, which still upsets me when I think about it even now, I have left in, but I have tried to explain why I felt like that. I have also removed my later reflections on my visit.
I will also quote a paragraph from the letter I received, which may assist future visitors: I feel it is unreasonable for you to expect to arrive at the parish, unannounced, and to request from the Rector immediate access to the Church. Had you researched the parish in advance, you would have known that there is a parish office, you would also know the times the parish office is open and you would have been able to ring the parish office to organise a visit. This is what other visitors do. - Dennis L Stafford, Solicitor
I do not believe that my desire to see inside Gaywood church was unreasonable. This is only the third time in Norfolk that I have had a hostile reception during a visit to a church. One of the other occasions was at Lingwood.
St Faith, Gaywood, Kings Lynn
Walter Caroe put those words here in 1923 above his new north doorway, which he placed inside a reset Norman entrance arch. Did he imagine then that one day his Gate of Heaven would be barred?
Caroe, one of the most interesting and important church architects of the early 20th century, was busy here in the 1920s, completely rebuilding the nave and giving it aisles. He'd done the chancel chapel and roof fifteen years earlier, at a time when some of his best work can be found a few miles to the south at Elveden in Suffolk. Ten years before Caroe, Diocesan architect Herbert Green had thoroughly restored the Perpendicular church, but in fact there were a considerable number of refurbishments and restorations throughout the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries (one of 1808 is well documented) and so very little that is medieval survives.
After a certain amount of negotiating, she went and got the key. I had ten minutes, she said, and then she'd have to come back. I realised then that she thought I wanted her to come with us, and so I offered to borrow the key and bring it back when we'd finished. I have visited more than 1200 churches in East Anglia in the last five years, a small proportion of which were locked with available keys, and this is the normal procedure. She laughed, and told me that I must be joking. This made me feel very small indeed.
On the way over to the church, she asked me what my interest in the church was. I explained about the Reformation, and the Laudians, and the Tractarian revival. She said that I wouldn't find much of that kind of thing in there. But she was wrong, because St Faith contains much of interest.
Perhaps Gaywood's greatest treasure is the south aisle chapel, where there is some super glass a century apart; the earliest shows Christ healing the blind by the Powell workshop, and that in the east window is by Suffolk stained glass artist Rosemary Rutherford, who died tragically young in the 1970s. Her work is rare, and I recognised it with delight - I hadn't known it was here.
Christopher Manning writes: Keep up the good work, you have led me on a nostalgic journey from All Saints King's Lynn, where I was christened, to Gaywood, St Faiths where, as a pupil of Gaywood Primary School I attended services and sunday school, to St Mary's South Wootton where my mother and grandparents are buried. I too find it sad that some churches are now kept locked. As a boy I was fascinated by church architecture and cycled all over the fens visiting churches of great stature for the small villages they served.
A local Anglican Priest writes: may I say how much I enjoy your web-site. I regularly look to see what is new. I would rank your entries about Gaywood and Kirkley as two great comedy classics. I have circulated them to my friends. I heartily commend your efforts to get the churches of East Anglia open. A church which is locked has the air of a club house, whereas a church which is open and prayed in is instantly recognisable.
Pete Duxon writes: I am always amused to read the "controversial" entries on your site. I find it hard to believe that feelings are libellous! What were they going to do? take you to court? great publicity for the CofE! Surely Mr Stafford must know that the churches of Norfolk are incredibly popular. I suppose for every 50 people who show courtesy you get one who doesn't.
Peter Heseltine writes: Clergy are busy - but so are we all these days and it is their choice. There is no reason for them to be off-hand to visitors - or for their flock to write offensive letters. Keep visiting.
David Wyatt writes: I whole heartily agree with your commentary. I came from Kings Lynn originally and have numerous pictures of family members that have married baptized etc at St. Faiths. I even attended St. Faiths as a cub scout. My Mother lives a matter of yards from the church and when my wife and I visit from America we always go by the church so as to let her see it, of course it's ALWAYS locked and no one is ever around. We even enquired to have our wedding vows renewed at St. Faiths but received a cant be bothered attitude. Then after we said because of family history at the church it was something we really wanted, they explained the cost . Incredible!!! We decided to go to St. Marys in Colkirk, where I still have many relatives waiting in their graves for us to visit..
David D writes: It's a sad reflection on Gaywood that all this fuss has been made. If the church is lively enough to maintain a parish office, it should manage to have several key-holders. The solicitor's letter is entirely unreasonable.
John V writes: These people need to get into the real world and see what their colleagues are able to achieve with very little effort. I know you probably don't want the adverse publicity but I feel the more this story gets out - and in the national press as well - that it can only be to the good of your cause.
Peter Stephens writes: They just keep demonstrating what a mean-spirited bunch of people they are, don't they? What on earth is Mr Stafford talking about saying you should make an appointment to visit a church? Does he not realize that the Church belongs to everyone and is meant to be readily available to pilgrims and visitors? I've never contacted a parish office in my life. And, as you know, about 70% of Norfolk churches are open anyway, and a further 20% have keyholders, usually very pleasant people too.
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