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St Peter, Guestwick
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This remote village is guarded by a large and curiously arranged church - there isn't another in Norfolk like it. At first sight, it appears that the tower was built on the north side of the chancel - and yet, a closer look tells you that the tower is older than the church. How has this come about?
The tower is that of a vanished church. At one time, it was a cruciform building with a central tower, quite possibly Saxon in origin. You can see the ghost of the vanished chancel arch on the east side of the tower, and that of the tower arch to the west. It may be that there never was a north transept - certainly, that to the south, where the chancel is now, was added in the 12th century. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century immediately to the south of the old one, a typical Perpendicular affair with aisles and a clerestory. The north aisle is on the line of the original nave. The top part of the tower is contemporary with the new church.
This is an interesting and satisfying architectural puzzle to work out, and that may well be all you get to do here, because most unusally for this part of Norfolk St Peter is kept locked. There is a keyholder, but the address was so vague that I could not find it, and there was no telephone number. The big Perpendicular windows are mostly clear, and so you can see into an interior which looks most interesting, and well worth the visit if you can.
Peter Stephens, fortunately, has been inside, and took the interior photographs below. Like most East Anglian Perpendicular churches, it is a harmonious interior, full of light, and with some old woodwork. The great nave roof is, however, Victorian. The font is 15th century, made new for the new church, but the star of the show here is obviously the fine collection of 15th century stained glass. The fragments have been reassembled in two windows in the north aisle, and like the font were probably made for the new church. The figures include several angels, as well as a fine St Catherine and a St Lucy. I'd love to see them close up for myself, so I will endeavour to track down that key.
Simon Knott, July 2006
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