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St Mary, Great Bircham
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Not a large village, though it may seem so after a few hours cycling through the little hamlets that bury themselves in the valleys of the rolling north-west Norfolk landscape. Technically there are three Birchams, although in reality the other two are just outer fringes to the Great one, and St Mary is the big church at the heart of it all.
A big church, yes, but unfamiliar to East Anglian eyes in that, despite its wide aisles, there is no clerestory, and the big west tower is set against the end of the south aisle, which must have been the site of the original church. Mortlock observes that the church has a curiously shuttered look, which is exactly right. So often with large churches in East Anglia you enter a building of light-filled and perpendicular openness, but here, as you approach the grand north porch, you have no inkling of what secrets may be inside.
Simon Knott, August 2016
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