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St Augustine, Norwich
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When you stand in the graveyard of St Augustine, you can enjoy the 17th century almshouses that line the south side of the graveyard, and some modern award-winning sheltered flats on the north side. But dominating the scene is the jaw-dropping presence of Sovereign House. It really is stupefyingly ugly. It was built for Her Majesty's Stationery Office when such a thing existed, but today stands empty and derelict. Anglia Square and the multistorey carpark beside it seem almost jaunty by comparison, but don't be fooled. They are ugly too.
I'm really pleased that the CCT have care of this church, because there are not many historical survivals inside, and it might otherwise have been lost. The furnishings are all late Victorian, and the rood screen dates from the 1920s - it is the parish war memorial, and the names of the dead are inscribed on the western side of the dado. They are not dead who live forever in our hearts it reads on the west side, which seems a curiously secular thing to say, as if it came out of a card saying with sympathy on the front.
One famous name associated with this church is Matthew Brettingham, the 17th century architect, responsible for refurbishing a number of Norfolk buildings. His memorial is in the north aisle chapel; unfortunately, you can't see it, because the vestry was built around it and is kept locked. I wonder what he'd make of Sovereign House?
Simon Knott, December 2005
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