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St Peter, Ickburgh
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A row of almshouses opposite the church are decorated with Biblical texts, and a farm stands behind the church. It would all be charming and typical rural south Norfolk, if it wasn't for the fact that the farmyard is being built over with suburban houses, a legacy of the difficulties of English agriculture over the last few years.At first sight, St Peter appears no different to a hundred other rural medieval churches in the eastern counties, but the extension to the north aisle gives pause for thought, and then the eye takes in the lavish elaboration of window tracery and roof line. Someone has spared no expense. Only the tower appears still conventionally rustic, perhaps because it is in fact the only medieval survival here. The rest of the church was entirely rebuilt in the middle years of the 1860s. You step into an interior which is like a time capsule of that decade: nothing has happened here since. The glass, the furnishings, the marble pulpit and font, are all of a piece.
The glass depicts Evangelists and Doctors of the church. An extraordinarily grand brass Gothic retable has been added to the base of the east window below the altar with room for six big candlesticks, suggesting that this was a very High Church congregation in the 1860s, if not positively Anglo-catholic: if so, this would be an extremely early manifestation for Norfolk, although neighbouring West Tofts was rebuilt just before this in a fantastic medievalist style by Augustus Pugin, and nearby Mundford would also embrace the tradition later in the century.
Simon Knott, November 2008
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