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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk

All Saints, Helhoughton


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west end north side

    All Saints, Helhoughton
  Here we are in Helhoughton, at one time Hale Houghton, to distinguish it from the other three Houghtons in the area. Actually, the position of the village on the northern edge of the Raynham estate might cause us to consider it the fourth Raynham, alongside East Raynham, West Raynham and South Raynham. All these villages are lovely, their churches welcoming. That said, All Saints has a rather forbidding, fortress-like exterior, thanks to a most unusual demolition and rebuilding of the nave in the late 18th century. When Mortlock came this way in the 1980s, he found it in a terrible state; but that has changed, as we will see. The flat-roofed tower is rather odd, and was presumably repaired in this way at the time the nave was built. Only the chancel retains its original medieval character. Unusually for East Anglia, you enter the church through the west door - All Saints is one of a tiny handful of Norfolk churches which have doors to neither south or north. Outside at this end are the elegant external war memorials.

When the nave was rebuilt, it was given one of the low plaster ceilings fashionable at the time. Otherwise, the proportions are those of a medieval church, and so there is something a little odd about the roof. Mortlock found the plaster flaking and falling into the nave, but in the 1980s there was a big restoration carried out by the workers of the euphemistically named Manpower Services Commission's Community Programme. In those years of mass unemployment, this was a kind of pressgang to ensure that people earned their dole money - several East Anglian churches benefited from the cheap labour of the time. The ceiling now has recessed spotlights, as if this had been a DIY project in someone's master bedroom. Actually, it is rather interesting - I'm glad that every church doesn't have them, but I quite liked finding them here.

Otherwise, the interior is spotless and rather lovely. The brick floors are a delight, the Norman font set on four columns and a heavy base a great curiosity. The clear windows fill the church with light, and the chancel is pretty. It contains two items of great interest; a heart brass, and the best James I royal arms in the county. They have been relettered for Queen Anne and dated 1706, but they actually come from a century earlier, and still bear James I's motto, Exurgat Deus et Dissipentur Inimici ('Rise up o God and put down my enemies'). This is a very satisfying thing to say in Latin, and I find myself praying it under my breath several times during the course of a normal working day.


Simon Knott, October 2007

looking east font chancel sanctuary
James I Deus Dissipentur 1703 unicorn 
WWI mother's union heart roll of honour
Manpower Services Commission removed sacrament Richard Andrew Francis

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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk