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

All Saints, Newton-by-Castle-Acre

Newton-by-Castle Acre

Newton-by-Castle Acre Newton-by-Castle Acre Newton by Castle Acre

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All Saints, Newton-by-Castle-Acre

This lovely little church will be a familiar sight to anyone who travels the Fakenham to Swaffham road, the perky capped tower, the red-tiled roofs as if we might be on the Loire, and especially after dark, the floodlit walls glowing like honey. A beautiful landmark, always to be anticipated. From the outside the structure is easy to read, the central tower punctuating a simple nave and chancel on either side. Cautley pointed out that the church had once been cruciform and that the transepts have disappeared, probably demolished in the 18th Century. Everything appears late Saxon/early Norman apart from the window tracery and the cap on the tower, which Mortlock sees as continental in style, while Pevsner argues that this is what would have been there originally.

This has always been an important road, especially in the Middle Ages when it would have been the main route to Walsingham from London and the south. It is easy to see that this little church would have been a regular stopping-off point for pilgrims making that journey. And you still step inside to an ancient calm. The brick floors and white walls are an unforgettable delight, the slightly damp smell also memorable. Modern furnishings interact with the 14th Century font and window tracery to create a sense of the unfamiliar, but it all comes together, understated and harmonious, a complex succession of rooms unfolding as you move east. As you step beneath the first arch (strictly, the tower arch) which has the royal arms above it, you can see that it is a later rebuilding, probably contemporary with the font and the windows, but the second arch, the chancel arch, is rugged and perhaps late Saxon.

There is a doorway halfway up the eastern wall of the nave on the north side. Obviously, this was the doorway into the roodloft, and access to it was from the tower stairway. A window above the arch is more curious. Again perhaps Late Saxon, it lets into the space of the tower. Perhaps it allowed the gospel to be read from up there, an intriguing thought. It's not surprising that the Norfolk churches expert Sam Mortlock loved this church. This little gem of a place presents a lovely outline as you approach it, he wrote, and if you like small, intimate church interiors then this one will be a joy. There isn't a straight line or a level surface in the place. The rough old walls are white and the pews are basic, but there is a touch of restrained style in the modern pulpit and prayer desk, where plain deal alternates with blue stripes spiked with gold stars. He was writing in the 1980s, and it is easy to agree with him except maybe in the matter of the pulpit and the prayer desk, which perhaps haven't stood the test of time. Never mind, it isn't them that you come to see.

Simon Knott, November 2020

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Newton-by-Castle Acre Newton-by-Castle Acre Newton-by-Castle Acre looking east
Newton-by-Castle Acre Newton by Castle Acre font looking west
harvest chest pulpit rood loft stairway
Newton-by-Castle Acre Newton-by-Castle Acre Kingborrow

   
               
                 

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