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St George, Gooderstone
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You walk past the war memorial, set rather awkwardly into the wall beside the church gate. Externally, the building is rather rugged, partly a result of having undergone a Decorated makeover of what would have been a large, towered Norman church. In the early 14th century this must have been a glorious building, an outstanding church before the wealth of the following century built up many Norfolk and Suffolk churches into even grander edifices. White's 1845 Directory notes that the parish is also known as Goodson, but I have never heard anybody call it this. The villages around here seem more remote than they really are, being reached along lanes which dogleg absent-mindedly through the heathland and woodlands, occasionally petering out altogether among the fields.
So often with a big Decorated church, I enter with trepidation for fear of what might have happened here in the 19th century. No doubt the Victorians did a lot of good in rescuing our parish churches from the neglect of the long 18th Century night, but the rough and ready feeling which I yearn for in such a building was generally anathema to them. However, it is with a big sigh of relief that I saw an interior filled with 15th Century benches, their backs hauntingly decorated with cut-away tracery. Beyond, one of West Norfolk's most magnificent rood screens rises high into the wide chancel arch. Sam Mortlock thought this screen was one of the most remarkable in England. The most intriguing feature is the series of image brackets high up on the mullions, where statues of Saints would have stood guard before the rood loft. There are the twelve Apostles on the dado, with the four Latin Doctors on the gates.
There is more grand medieval woodwork up in the chancel, where a set of stalls sits proudly as if waiting for a college of Priests to come and sit in them. Presumably they once had misericord seats, but these have been replaced, sadly. Looking back westwards, the tiled floor is a not unpleasing setting for all these medieval survivals. All in all, Gooderstone church seemed just about right as a document of the passing centuries. I liked it a lot.
Simon Knott, September 2008
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