home I index I latest I glossary I introductions I e-mail I about this site

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

St Peter, Hockwold


Read the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to see them enlarged.
a hidden church Hockwold

    St Peter, Hockwold
Maria Hungerford, 1719   Hockwold merges into Wilton in this corner of the Brecklands. We are close to the Suffolk border here, and not so very far away from the Cambridgeshire border. We are also not so very far from the fen edge, so stone was a possibility in the late medieval period. They used to bring it by barge across the undrained fen from the quarries beyond Peterborough. But what would be the point? For we are at the centre of the medieval flint industry.

Lakenheath railway station, on the Norwich to Cambridge line, sits just to the south of the village, but unfortunately it now only operates a 'parliamentary service' of two trains a week. Wilton's church now serves both villages in the joint parish, and St Peter is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It is open daily, although it wasn't on the occasion of my first visit, a day of heavy rain in the Autumn of 2009. I pottered about the dripping graveyard with its pleasing array of late 18th and 19th Century headstones, and knew I would have to come back soon.

Seven years passed, but in the hot summer of 2016 I came back to Hockwold. It was a day of rising heat, the precursor to the hottest days of the year which were to immediately follow. And this time, the church was open. At first sight, St Peter is slightly odd, because although this is a big late medieval church with a south aisle and a clerestory, the older tower is offset at the west end of the aisle. This, then, was the site of the original church.

But there is more to it than this, for, as Pevsner notes, there was a bequest as late as 1533 for 'hallowing' the church. This date seems to fit the wonderful angel roof, which is spectacularly late - another 14 years, and such imagery would be quite illegal. Is it coincidence that the angels are already morphing into more secular figures?

A Hockwold Angel A Hockwold Angel
A Hockwold Angel A Hockwold Angel A Hockwold Angel
A Hockwold Angel A Hockwold Angel A Hockwold Angel

There is no north aisle or clerestory, but the great windows of the north side fill the church with light. Above the north door is a patchwork of late-medieval painted patternwork.

Stepping into the chancel, the east window is filled with Clayton & Bell's glass depicting the Crucifixion, flanked by the Resurrection and the Ascension. Below, Christ enters Jerusalem, prays at Gethsemane and carries his cross. Well, I don't know. Does it really enhance this place? I don't think I've ever seen a Clayton & Bell window to set the pulses racing, have you? In their early days they could be good - witness the excellent work at East Winch, not so very far from here. But you feel that sometimes a spiritual space cries out for more than a mere safe pair of hands.

And I am afraid that both Pevsner and Mortlock moaned about the memorials that flank it. To the right, sober and serious busts of 1719 to John and Maria Hungerford sit awkwardly, shouldering for space in the frame. There are musical instruments above them. To the left, an unconvincing cherub for Cyril Wyche of 1780 holding a wreath, having leant his upturned torch against the wall. Me, I can take or leave 18th Century memorials, but they matter to Pevsner and Mortlock. Both try to be kind. Neither of the monuments has the mark of quality, though they do try, argues Mortlock. Badly carved, which is unlike Singleton (the carver) says Pevsner. Mortlock decides that Cyril Wyche's cherub is sadly overweight.

Oh dear! Best turn back to the nave, and that utterly wonderful roof.

  Jermyn Wyche Hungerford, 1719

Simon Knott, August 2016

looking east chancel font
Christ's entry into Jerusalem (Clayton & Bell) east window (Clayton & Bell) looking west Cyrille Wyche 1780
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (Clayton & Bell)

the Hockwold dead comedy sheep and the eye in the sky the Hockwold dead

Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site.

home I index I latest I introductions I e-mail I about this site I glossary
Norwich I ruined churches I desktop backgrounds I round tower churches
links I small print I www.simonknott.co.uk I www.suffolkchurches.co.uk

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