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

All Saints, Horsey

Horsey: organic and delightful

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13th century, all in one go tower topped by a 15th century bell stage hidden by trees thatch

    All Saints, Horsey
utterly charming   This pretty little jewel-like church is a favourite of so many people that I was really looking forward to seeing it, and I was not disappointed. Horsey is a tiny, remote settlement between West Somerton and Waxham. Suddenly, in this landscape of straight roads, flat fields and drainage ditches, you come upon a wooded oasis of old houses set around a knot of lanes, and among them this pretty little church. The trees make the building almost impossible to photograph, but on this beautiful July day I would not have wished them away. The church feels as organic in its setting as the trees do.

All Saints is a single celled building with a round tower. The round tower is Norman I suppose, but it doesn't appear ancient and although I thought it was probably early 12th century, Pevsner goes for a century later. A tall octagonal bell tower was added on the eve of the Reformation.

Given that the character of the church beside it is of the 13th century, despite the replacement of all the windows by the Victorians, Pevsner is probably right, and so it seems likely that All Saints was built all in one go, perhaps about the year 1220.

This place is the only high, wooded spot for miles, and so the tower is famous as a roost of owls and other birds of prey. There are photographs up at the back of the church, and the church was the subject of books and radio programmes about nesting birds back in the 1950s. The long, thatched roof is rather overgrown with moss on the north side, but presents an elegant yet wholly rustic face to the south.

And wholly rustic too is the inside of All Saints, a delicious feel of a rural 19th century interior carved out of an ancient space. everything is simple, from the small font and screen which were probably contemporary with the top of the tower, to the plain benches and pretty little holy table in the sanctuary.

Ring candelabras hang from the unceilured roof - you can see the thatch poking through. Light floods the interior from the east window, picking out the old woodwork, smoothing the stone. It is all utterly charming. Even the Victorian tiles of the floor seem uncharacteristically organic. I thought it was lovely.

In this quiet space, the Victorian glass is not intrusive. Several of the windows contain understated memorials. St Peter and St Paul, looking rather less grand than usual, look across to the figure of Catherine Ursula Rising painting at her easel. Nearby, a peaceful Christ hugs a smug little lamb.

  unceilured roof

Simon Knott, August 2006

looking east holy table
looking west font, looking east old woodwork chancel
St Peter and St Paul Catherine Ursula Rising painting at her easel Catherine Ursula Rising painting at her easel a peaceful Christ hugs a smug little lamb

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