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All Saints, Horstead
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For many many years, Horstead and Coltishall stood out as just about the only inaccessible churches in the whole of the Norfolk Broads.Today, Coltishall is open, and Horstead lists three keyholders, which is splendid news. I must be honest, and perhaps even a little harsh, and say that I can see no reason for this church to be kept locked. It is well-protected by neighbours, and would provide a spiritual heart to a place that is not among Norfolk's more characterful villages. Above all else, the great treasures of Horstead church are not the kind of things that can be carted off in the back of a white transit van, because All Saints has one of the finest collections of late 19th and early 20th Century glass in north-east Norfolk.
The most famous is the south nave window designed by Edward Burne-Jones for the William Morris workshop. It depicts Courage and Humility, two of the favourite late Victorian virtues, and two which we could do with a bit more of in public life today. Courage appears as a St Michael-like character, his shield slammed by crossbow bolts. Humility is feminie, with echoes of St Mary Magdalene, a favourite subject of Burne-Jones. As if this were not enough, All Saints is also home to what must surely be the best Kempe window in East Anglia. It fills the east window; Kempe is not always good on a large scale, but in this case the workshop got it exactly right. The window depicts two local figures, neither of them actually canonised: Herbert de Losinga holds the Cathedral which he founded at Norwich, while the mystic Julian of Norwich stands with the church in which she was an anchoress. Between them are the blessed virgin and St Nicholas. Female figures in Kempe windows are not always successful: too often, the workshop depicted them as rather matronly. But the Blessed Virgin here is shown as young and triumphant, and even Dame Julian wears her wisdom lightly. To the south of this, in what must always have been the vestry and organ chamber, there is a magnificent and unusual window by the Hardman workshop, depicting the ancestry of Christ in the form of a Jesse window.
There is more glass in the nave, including a depiction of Christ summoning the disciples, which I think must also be by Hardman. Rather less good is the Good Shepherd and St John, possibly by Ward & Hughes, and another successful Kempe window at the west end of the south aisle depicting St George and St Cecilia, although with Cecilia the workshop's familiar female matronliness kicks in at last.
Pevsner makes an interesting point about the rebuilding. The reported cost was a mere £1,178, roughly £200,000 in today's money, which does not seem anywhere near enough. There are plenty of surviving features from the earlier church, including the south doorway and the font: is it possible that Phipson merely built the south aisle and arcade, and refaced the other walls?
Simon Knott, February 2009
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