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

All Saints, Mundesley

Mundesley

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    All Saints, Mundesley

There's something charming about Mundesley. This is the caravan coast of north-east Norfolk, but that in itself makes it feel quite old-fashioned, and people like it for being so. The wide North Sea spreads beyond the church, quite as dramatic a setting as that of the more famous Beeston Regis along the coast. The streets around have a seasidey feel, with gift shops and fish and chip shops and a bowling green, a skein of laughter caught by the wind, the tattoo of an ice cream van . It was all very jolly. This part of Norfolk was remote before the coming of the railways, but by the second half of the 19th century this beautiful coast had been discovered. You could reach here in less than four hours from London, and so several former fishing villages began to develop as holiday resorts, becoming towns.

The most famous of these today is Cromer, but Mundesley had ambitions too. When the railway reached here a couple of massive hotels were built, and still stand today, rather oddly in this backwater. Plots were laid out for a a great housing estate, but the receding cliffs put people off, and they never came. And the railway, too, has gone now. Now, there are only the caravans.

It was the promotion of this part of Norfolk as 'Poppyland' in the early part of the 20th century that led to the restoration of All Saints - until 1905, it was just another clifftop ruin. Inside, a plaque records that from this point eastward the nave and chancel of this church were in ruins for over a hundred years. In the early 19th century, Ladbroke had found All Saints a ruin, but the western third of the nave roofed and still in use - roughly, that part between the first and second buttress from the west. Mundesley's reinvention as a resort created a need for a new church, and so the ruin was rebuilt, spectacularly well, in two stages. Firstly, in 1904 the western end was extended to make an organ chamber, and then in 1914 the nave was extended eastwards, with a new chancel on the site of the old one. From the outside, the most obviously 'old' feature is the porch, although in fact a lot of old material seems to have been reused in the new building.

You step into a church which is similar to nearby Sidestrand which was rebuilt at almost exactly the same time. There is a similar air of an early 20th century High Church enthusiasm, but also a gentle, rural feeling. For example, the vivid rood on the chancel screen is balanced by a west gallery. The royal arms of Victoria are on the front of the gallery. I couldn't decide if they were painted directly on with a trompe l'oeil effect, or actually made out of wood and stuck on.

The early 20th century glass is all by Kempe & Co in the triumphalist manner of the day, the last gasp of a style which within twenty years would have been utterly replaced by simpler, starker styles. I'm not a huge fan of the workshop, but it fits perfectly here, contributing to a slightly dim prayerful space, a contrast with, but a compliment to, the early 20th Century seaside village outside.

Simon Knott, August 2019

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looking east looking west
font, gallery, royal arms Adoration of the Shepherds (Kempe & Co, 1920) lady altar angels censing Christ in Majesty (Kempe & Co) killed in action near Ypres, Belgium

   

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