Andrew, Little Snoring
cross the Stiffkey from the Burnhams, and it is
as if you are entering the real Norfolk, where
the driver of a pickup truck is more likely to be
wearing a baseball cap and carrying a shotgun
than to be delivering a pine dresser from an
antique shop in Burnham Market to its new home in
NW3. Suddenly, the pubs are no longer haute
cuisine restaurants but authentic village
inns, which in rural England today means pool
tables, country and western music and 'special
value' Sunday roasts. It was a curious relief.
Snoring is a large, working village joined to its
neighbour Kettlestone across the
busy Fakenham to Cromer road. Of all Norfolk
place names, it is the one that outsiders find
the most amusing - in fact, it simply means the
place of a people who followed a man called
the neighbouring Walsinghams, Little Snoring is bigger
than Great Snoring, and has a decent
pub, shops and a village school.The church sits out to
the north of the village, on the edge of the WWII
airbase. This has now all gone, ploughed under decades
ago, but it still provides romantic associations.
Unusually in Norfolk, it wasn't a base used by American
bombers, but by British fighter aircraft, Spitfires and
Hurricanes. During the war years, St Andrew was used as
the base chapel.
you probably know, and as you'll have spotted in
the photos if you don't, St Andrew is remarkable
for having a tower that is detached from the rest
of the church. The two sit together on a mound
above the road. The south side of the graveyard
has been largely cleared of headstones, but there
are some fine 18th and 18th century ones that
line the path, in a mist of celandines on this
early May day.
The round tower is doubly
attractive; not only is it free standing, but it
is topped by a little 18th century conical cap
with tiny gables and a spike. On the eastern
face, there is a filled-in tower arch, into which
a door and grotesque have been fitted in more
then, this tower once stood at the west end of a church.
Unlike Bramfield in Suffolk, where the round tower
has always been free-standing, this one is situated alone
more by accident than design.
knows for certain why. At some point, the church that the
tower belonged to was demolished. But was it replaced by
the one that now stands a few metres to the north, or was
that church there already? At Reepham, for example, the
two churches in the churchyard are so close together that
they are actually touching. The matter is clouded by the
fact that the tower archway is Norman, and the south and
north doors of the existing church are also Norman, as
are some of the windows. Could they be contemporary?
south doorway must always have been the main
entrance, being the more elaborate of the two.
Curiously, it has an Early English doorway set
within the Norman doorway. The red-brick porch,
with its elegant heads, is so close to the tower
arch that from a distance it appears that they
might be hinged. What happened here?
To my mind,
the most likely explanation is that an enlarged
replacement church was built on slightly higher
ground to the north of the old one, probably
because of drainage problems. At Little Whelnetham in
Suffolk, the remains of a round tower survive to
the east of the current chancel, so the decision
there was obviously taken to rebuild on slightly
doorways, which are rather fine, came from the old church
and were moved, or the way of life has always been so
laid back around here that they were still using Norman
forms until well into the 13th century.
this kind of thing happened a lot, and the tower usually
followed, being demolished and then rebuilt. But it
didn't happen here, leaving this beautiful anomaly.
the church is earthy and rustic; the roof could
as easily be that of a barn. The wide nave and
chancel are separated by a fairly narrow chancel
arch, creating a feeling of uncluttered rooms;
the sturdy font sits in an expanse of tiles.
There are seats stepped up at the back,
presumably for school children in the 19th
century. There is nothing remarkable, except for
the Royal Arms, which are unusually to James II.
Curiously, there is another set across the fields
Snoring, perhaps revealing Jacobite
sympathies in these valleys.
is still a place of pilgrimage for those who flew
from the wartime base, and for those who remember
them. Large boards up at the back record 'hits'
on German aircraft and awards received; at first,
I thought the triumphalism out of place, but then
I thought I prefered their bullishness to the
often mawkish memorials you find to many
see why people might have a fondness for St Andrew, even
without its associations. It is interesting, mysterious
and beautiful. On this sunny spring day it was a place to
lift the heart.
Simon Knott, May 2005