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St Mary, Gressenhall
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The imposing central tower is perhaps a little over-restored, and this gives it an echo of Castle Rising church, but in fact Perpendicular is more in evidence here than Romanesque. The wide, sloping graveyard is a perfect setting. In the silence, apart from birdsong, there was a sense of remoteness.
Gressenhall church must be one of the largest churches in Norfolk to be kept locked, and the parish seems wary of visitors. However, thanks to the efforts of Chris Harrison, who had been here before, we tracked down a key on the edge of the village green and were able to see inside.
We stepped into a stillness to match the silence outside. As with all central-towered churches, there is a sense of rooms that open up off each of other, the aisles, chancel and the transepts forming separate spaces of their own. High above the tower arch, a double headed window reveals the Norman origins of the place, but otherwise this feels an early 20th century space in a medieval shell.
Propped up against the south wall are some panels from the rood screen. They depict St Leonard, St Augustine, St Stephen and St Michael, all barely decipherable now thanks to vandalism, although the St Michael appears as if it was a good one. The restored roof of the south transept nearby is very beautiful.
Simon Knott, September 2006
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