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

St Mary, Hillington

Hillington

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west doors cast iron window tracery

    St Mary, Hillington

A tall, polite church on the edge of the Sandringham estate, the crisp walls and neatly mown churchyard all of a piece on this bright July day. The construction is in a curious mixture of blue carstone, clunch and flint, as if it couldn't quite decide which geological region to be built in. Even more curious are the windows in the south aisle, because their tracery is made of cast iron.

You enter the church from the west, beneath the tower, and the first impression is of how deliciously full of light it is. Apart from the bright west window of 1840 by Wilmshurst & Oliphant, depicting Christ flanked by St Peter and St Paul, under which you enter, and another rather decaying window by Hardman & Co of 1860 depicting the adoration of the Shepherd and the Magi, which is in any case hidden behind the organ, this church's glass is entirely clear. Above, the ceiling creates a lovely acoustic. I wonder what it conceals?

The Browne family and the Ffolkes family of Hillington Hall left their mark here. Travelling northwards, this was the first substantial collection of memorials we had come across in a church today. The most memorable is in the south aisle, to Lucretia Georgiana Browne West. She died in Mumbai, India in 1828, eleven days after giving birth to a baby boy who lived only a few hours. She is shown cradling the poor little fellow, disconsolate with grief.

Lucretia West grieves over her dead infant son Lucretia West grieves over her infant son eleven days after giving birth to a posthumous son, who only lived a few hours

Another substantial memorial in the chancel is to Sir William Browne, President of the Royal College of Physicians. The most interesting of the Ffolkes memorials are in the form of encaustic tiles down parts of the north and south walls, remembering themselves and their workers and servants in democratic fashion. One is to Harold Ffolkes, son of the Rector here, who drowned at King's Weir in Oxford in a brave attempt to save his Friend. It is worth noting in passing that these tiles are more than a century old, but they look as fresh and clear today as they did when they were first erected. It seems a shame that the fashion did not catch on, although you do come across such things from time to time in various places.

The family have gone now, and so has the Hall. A carstone Gothic pile of the 1830s, it was demolished in 1946. But the church remains, and it was good to get that sense that it meant as much to its past as to its present and future. More a touchstone than a time capsule, a reminder of how we came to be. My ancestors, of course, would have been the Ffolkes's servants and workers, but it is nice to think they might have been remembered in encaustic tiles.

When I last came this way in 2005, I found the church locked, in contrast with the other Sandringham estate churches, and there wasn't even a keyholder notice. Well, there has been a slight improvement, because I am told that the church is now open on a Saturday, and if you find it locked you can borrow a key from the tall modern house to the north of the church.

  candle bracket
   

Simon Knott, July 2016

looking east looking west tower arch font
crucified Anmer Flitcham Hillington M U bench from Hillington Hall a considerate landlord, a keen farmer, excelled at all kinds of sport Adoration of the Magi and Shepherds (Hardman & Co) Christ flanked by St Peter and St Paul
Sir William Brown, President of the Royal College of Physicians Stranger! Look not to this marble for a record of his virtues a considerate landlord, a keen farmer, excelled at all kinds of sport Borne the last day of February 1667 and died the 14th day of October 1668
killed in action on 30 December 1917 crippled man and kneeling prayer before a church Wilton fecit

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