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St Margaret, Hempnall
Hempnall is one of those large, rather characterless villages you find either side of the Suffolk border. However, it is also centre of one of the friendliest group of parishes in the county - the seven Hempnall benefice churches are open every day, a warm welcome awaiting visitors. The group includes famous gems Shelton and Fritton, but most are just ordinary working churches, well-use and well-loved. All in all, the group is a delight.
St Margaret today is essentially the work of restorers. Nave aisles survived a fire in the late 14th century, but a fire in the 17th century scoured internal medieval survivals, and the Victorians rebuilt the east end, getting rid of the ruined chancel. The result is a building that is almost perfectly square. In the 1970s, the area beneath the tower was refitted, the new balcony accessed by a gorgeous spiral staircase.
When Mortlock came this way in the 1980s, he found this space filled with 19th century pews; but these have now gone, and the inside is stunningly beautiful, a wide, light space with modern chairs and the altar brought forward into the nave. In one corner there is a chapel dedicated to the patron Saint. It all reminded me very much of modern Catholic churches.
The medieval font survives, an Georgian pulpit is tucked away awkwardly up one corner, but the warmth, and the light, and the feeling of a living faith community infuses everything. A place to uplift the heart.
Simon Knott, March 2005
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