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St John the Baptist, Morningthorpe
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the Baptist, Morningthorpe
Barely a mile from the busy Ipswich to Norwich road, and yet we might have stepped back a couple of centuries. After days of fierce Spring sunshine, Norfolk was monochrome under mist and drizzle, the bare trees dripping over the narrow lane from Long Stratton. And here, on the edge of a farmyard, was the church.
The first impression is of an overwhelming 19th century restoration, and this is pretty accurate. Even the round tower has been tidied up, and could easily be mistaken for the lower part of a windmill. But this church is part of the delightful Hempnall group of parishes, all of them open every day, all of them welcoming, well-kept and lovingly used. To step into it is to enter a living building.
There are two sets of royal arms, both to George III, one painted and the other carved. The font is a typical 15th century East Anglian affair, there are a contemporary piscina and tomb in the chancel, but otherwise this building belongs to the Victorians. Their tiles, glass and woodwork abound, but the life of this place imbues them with a sense of the contemporary. An unimportant place compared with immediate neighbours Fritton and Shelton, perhaps, but worth the visit for this sense alone.
Outside, there are a number of late 19th century gravestones in the same style, with pointed ogee tops and foliage along the edges. I had not seen anything quite like them before, and assumed them to be the work of a clever local mason.
Simon Knott, March 2005
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