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St Mary, Marlingford
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The sunshine we had glimpsed at neighbouring Bawburgh had now disappeared into a void of grey cloud, and as we entered the churchyard it started to snow heavily. Unsettled early March hurried us inside, and the interior was probably uncharacteristically gloomy, thanks to the weather. However, we found the light switches, and filled this lovely little church with light. It is, as you would expect, wholly late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it retains the character of a small, rural church without the anonymity that the thirty-odd years before the First World War so often inflicted.
Best of all is the glass in the chancel south side. It is by Powell and Sons. Pevsner credits it to a Henry Holiday cartoon, which seems late for the 1905 date he gives. Whatever, the three figures of Faith, Hope and Charity are gorgeous in their settings of foliage. Charity is particularly tender, and I couldn't think of a better representation of this subject in the county.
There's a modern Walsingham statue in a little niche on the north side of the arcade, which may be original and may actually have been a piscina, for beside it there is a passageway into the chancel, suggesting that the altar in the aisle was set to the west of it. As is common in this part of Norfolk, the font is a Purbeck Marble bowl, reset on Victorian legs as at Easton and Swannington. It looks rather curious here, because these 'off-the-shelf' bowls were mass-produced, and were generally considered a cheap 14th century option. Here it looks out of place on such a grand setting.
The chancel retains a large ledger stone to Richard Clarke, Generosus, Medicus et Pharmacopeus ('gentleman, physician and chemist') who was a friend of the more famous Thomas Brown of Norwich. His heraldic device must be one of the most deeply cut in Norfolk.
Three other 18th century memorials catch the eye as being of note. All three remember men with splendid names. On the south nave wall is a large ledger stone, which must have once been set in the floor, to Ceasar Life, who sounds like the author of one of those joke book titles - 'Tossed on the Waves of Fortune' by Ceasar Life, perhaps.
Simon Knott, March 2006
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