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

St Lawrence, Ingworth

Ingworth: simply because it is beautiful

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odd west end, though truncated, thatched tower 14th century expansion southwards

    St Lawrence, Ingworth
looking east from within the tower   Sometimes all historical and artistic imperatives go out the window, and you are fond of a church simply because it is beautiful. St Lawrence, just to the north of Aylsham, has been through the mill a bit; the tower collapsed in the early 19th century, and the stump was rebuilt as a vestry with a conical cap of thatch about a hundred years later, giving it a kind of Arts and Crafts feel.

At some point, probably in the 14th century, the nave has been widened; there is no arcade, no aisle, but it has left the chancel and tower pleasingly off-centre. A new tower seems also to have been planned, and perhaps even started, for a a stair turret has been begun in the south-west corner. It leads to the upper storey of the porch, and then continues upwards for a metre or so, later being bridged across to the now-lost old tower.

The large grass mound is at the heart of the village. The Mill is opposite, and narrow lanes meet here, busy about their business. An old lady was painting the wrought iron fence as we arrived. Other churchcrawlers have told me that in late spring this fence keeps in the sheep that graze the churchyard. Sheep in a graveyard is always a pleasant sight; but it is more than that, especially given the biblical significance of sheep and lambs. The church, the sheep, the graves of the dead; sacramental, almost.

Tom and I stepped inside. Now, here is a place where the 19th century restoration was masterful in leaving us a neat, rustic little church that is at once mindful of its past and fitting for its present. You'd have to be really cynical not to love it. The tiny interior is full without feeling overcrowded, as if everything necessary is here but nothing more.

Directly opposite the south doorway there is an organ gallery on the north wall, with access from the former tower stump. Cautley thought that the font below it was one of the Seven Sacrament series, but if so then, as at Walpole St Peter, the panels have been completely erased. Turning east, there are pastel walls and a plain, simple brick floor stretching between makeshift benches and 18th century box pews. It is a church of the common people.

Beyond a cut-down pulpit with its hour-glass still in situ, and the remains of the 15th century screen elaborated in a 20th century Anglo-catholic manner, the tiny chancel is full of light, with balustered communion rails and a simple Sarum screen to the altar.

It is a lovely setting for a single panel of continental glass in the east window, depicting the Presentation in the Temple at the moment of the Nunc Dimmitis; or perhaps it is just before the Nunc Dimmitis, for Simeon and Anna still looked crabbed with old age, as if they have not yet recognised the salvation of their people. Balancing it at the far end of the church is an elegant carved royal arms for WIlliam III, an unusual survival.

  Presentation in the Temple  

This is a place to sit and just think for a moment, especially if you are on a helter-skelter church crawl around this area as we were. And then, time to go, out through the crumbly old porch, which loving local hands have made good and mended over the years. Two rosemary bushes flank the entrance, and I took half a dozen cuttings for Jacquie. Two of them have survived, and Ingworth rosemary will flavour our roast lamb this coming Easter. Looking back as we walked down the path to the road, I noted the trimness of the thatched roofs, the finishing touch.

On its little mound in the middle of its village this church is utterly beguiling - or, at least, it seems so to my eyes. I wonder what effect it would have on a steely cynical heart?

Simon Knott, October 2005

   

simple sanctuary seven sacrament font? looking west to font and tower arch - note the organ gallery above  preacher's hour-glass
off centre chancel rood screen royal arms

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