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St Mary and St Andrew, Horsham St Faith
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and St Andrew, Horsham St Faith
Coming here in the autumn of 2008, we found scaffolding up, and a big programme of refurbishment in hand, including the building of a meeting room and kitchen at the back of the church. However, it was still clear what a magnificent interior this is. It wasn't possible on that occasion to see the church's famous Jacobean font cover, but I shall add a photograph of it when I revisit. Some apologetic but welcoming ladies were cleaning the nave for a wedding, and so we stepped carefully over buckets and mops to take a look at the great treasures of the church, the painted Saints on the rood screen dado and pulpit.
They are like no others in East Anglia, and although they have been restored, particularly those on the pulpit, they show that here was a devotion to some rather unfamiliar Saints, and with some exotic iconography. The panels on the pulpit appear earlier than those on the screen - or, at least, most of them do. One appears to have been painted by the same hand as the screen. The dedicatory inscription of the screen gives a date of 1528. If the pulpit was about 1480, but unfinished, it would explain the odd panel out. Figures of note include St Catherine of Sienna, St Bridget of Sweden, St Oswald and St Faith, as well as the more familiar St Etheldreda, St Apollonia, St Lucy, St Helen , St George, St John and St John the Baptist. The panel of the Blessed Virgin and child on the pulpit depicts a monk kneeling at her feet. Was he the donor, or does he represent the inhabitants of the Priory?
In recent years, the local Methodists have moved in with the Anglicans here, holding joint services. This is the kind of thing which is likely to happen more and more in the years to come, particularly in Norfolk, where there is a strong Methodist tradition. I have already observed that the setting of this church is urban in character, and much the same could be said for the inside, but also in a good way. The Victorians matched grandness for grandness, but there are other medieval survivals, including some good benches in the chancel.
Simon Knott, February 2009
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