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

Holy Trinity, Ingham

Ingham

Ingham Ingham

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    Holy Trinity, Ingham

Coming back here in the summer of 2019 after fifteen years away, I was struck again as I had been struck then. My goodness, this is a big church! It was rebuilt in the years after the Black Death by Sir Oliver de Ingham, who we will meet inside, and although it still has plenty of Decorated details it is already full of that sad austerity that would inform so much architecture over the next century. Most serious of all is the great vaulted porch, rising high as a house, although its bulk is softened slightly by the rosemary bushes planted outside. Inside, the porch is vaulted extravagantly in stone and ceiled in plaster between the ribs.

Sir Oliver had designed the church with a college of Friars of the Holy Trinity in mind, and although this foundation certainly started life, by the Reformation a century and a half later it had already ceased to function. In any case, this order was already in its last days, and never really caught on in England. Their main function, the redemption of slaves taken captive during the crusades, was hard to pursue from a remote Norfolk village. Even so, Ingham was briefly the mother house of the order in England.

There are two very important memorials here. That in the nave is Sir Oliver de Ingham himself. He lies on a bed of pebbles, sword in hand, two angels holding his helmet. Figures of mourners are set in relief around the base. The whole thing is almost identical in form to the one of Sir William de Kerdiston a few miles off at Reepham, although not in as good condition. Interestingly, it was analysed in 1993 using polychromatic techniques, and evidence of a rich colour scheme was unearthed. A painting of what it might have been like is on display, and is rather startling to say the least.

The other memorial in the nave, in its way more striking, is to the south of the chancel arch. It is roughly contemporary, although it remembers two people of several generations earlier, Sir Roger and Lady Margaret de Bois. Most curiously, Sir Roger rests his head on a disembodied helmeted knight. On the western panel of the tomb below their heads sits Christ in Judgement beneath coloured coving, two angels flanking him holding figures of what might perhaps be donors.

Lady Margaret and Sir Roger du Bois Christ in Judgement
Ingham Ingham

Pevsner noted the full confidence of Decorated architecture in the chancel, and consequently placed its style a generation earlier than the rebuilding, before the pestilence wasted Norfolk. The east window must be one of the most awe-inspiring in Norfolk of its period. Ewan Christian fortunately resisted the temptation to fill it with coloured glass, and he seems to have been inspired by its gaiety when he rebuilt the south aisle and clerestory in the 1870s. The clerestory is very curious, and on a bright day in it is like gazing up at a row of kaleidoscopes, all looking very French and not East Anglian at all.

For such a grand church there is a surprisingly bog-standard Purbeck font, typical of many of the churches around here, and although the Victorians had a go at making it grander by placing it high on a coloured marble collonade, perhaps it came from somewhere else originally and Christian brought it here. More excitingly, Ingham had a stone screen, and although not much of it remains now it is a reminder that the chancel and nave here would have had quite different liturgical functions. It wasn't necessary for the friars to know what was going on in the nave, and vice versa.

Ingham had some wonderful brasses, but they are pretty much all gone. 19th century records of them survive in the British Museum, and there are replicas on the wall. Apparently, one was to a dog called Jakke. I would have liked to have seen that.

Simon Knott, September 2019

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looking east stone screen and chancel looking west
font east window vaulted porch
east window tracery

   

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