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St Mary, Kenninghall
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The tower is big and bulky; Mortlock says that a spire was intended, and the money for it commited, by the Duke of Norfolk, whose shield can still be seen on the south-east buttress of the nave. But Norfolk was imprisoned for treason before it could be built, his assets frozen; and then, of course, the English Reformation intervened.
The graveyard is wide and also interesting. We picked our way through the long wet grass exploring. On this late winter afternoon, the bright low sun flooded the clear glass of the great west window and filled the chancel with light. From outside, the east window glowed like a jewel.
St Mary is exactly the kind of church which would be better known if it was in another county and not so much off the beaten track. You step into a large, urban church, full of confidence, and with more than a few survivals of the building's late-medieval and early-modern life. Best of all is the tympanum bearing the royal arms of Queen Elizabeth, one of only four sets in all East Anglia. It has been fixed at the east end of the north aisle, but is still pleasingly shaped to fit the chancel arch. God save the Queene, reads the legend, a crowned lion and a gorgeous spotted dragon flanking the Tudor arms. This is a much simpler affair than the more famous elaborate Elizabethan arms a few miles off at Tivetshall; here, the arms are cleanly drawn and charged with the quiet triumph of Protestantism. As if that wasn't enough, the church has one of Norfolk's best sets of arms of Charles I hanging above the north door.
On the other side of the church there are fragments of a large brass. The main figures are gone, but surviving are the two groups of children. These have been reset on a wall, so if there is a fire they will melt - floor-mounted brasses don't melt in fires - but at least it makes them easy to look at. With them are a pair of image brackets remounted from elsewhere, one of them ornate with fleurons.
Roughly contemporary with the brasses is what must have been a magnificent towering font cover. It towers like a steeple, familiar in style from elsewhere in Norfolk at Elsing and Walpole St Peter. Similarly battered are the remains of a medieval table tomb with empty brass inlays, pressed into service as a side altar in the chancel.
Simon Knott, December 2006
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