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All Saints, North Barsham
Saints, North Barsham
I stepped inside, into silence. I had left behind the crowds at the National Shrine, which can be one of the busiest places in rural Norfolk in the pilgrimage season, and now as the door closed there was a deeper silence, the breeze and the birdsong also disappearing. Just for one moment I stood absolutely still, and all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing.
Coming back ten years later, I was pleased to find All Saints unchanged, although disappointed to discover that I had not signed the visitors book. Very unlike me, but I think I may have been distracted by the stillness and the silence.
The church is tiny, and truncated at both ends. When the tower collapsed, it took the west end of the nave with it. The east end of the chancel succumbed to decay, and the modern west and east walls have shortened the building. Bits of the tower can be found built into the west end, including one of the niches above the door.
Inside, everything is neat, seemly, obviously Anglo-catholic in flavour. The font is a curious thing - it is an arcaded Purbeck marble job, familiar from hundreds of other churches - but when you look closely, you notice that it is hexagonal.
Because of the simplicity, and the silence, there is an intense timelessness about this interior. You could sit here for minutes and feel that hours had passed, and vice versa. Light skews in; dust sparkles as it falls, there is a smell of earth and the sound of your own breathing. It is a sense of the eternal. Quite out of keeping with it is a vast, ugly early 17th century memorial to Phillip Russell on the north wall, which includes an egg-timer made out of bones and various other skulls and crossed bones. Honestly. Some people were just so full of a sense of their own mortality.
Simon Knott, May 2005
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