home I index I latest I glossary I introductions I e-mail I about this site
St Mark, Lakenham, Norwich
the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to
see them enlarged.
The 1840s gallery, which goes around three walls of the nave, still has its box pews. On the walls below it, however, are 20th Century stations of the cross, and the view to the east is of a fantastic rood loft, which completely dominates the interior. The colourful apse beyond seems distant, mystical. St Mark, then, is a curious hybrid of the enthusiasm for building commodious churches at the start of the century, and a yearning for mystery and elaboration that arose as a response to the Anglo-Catholic movement later in the Victorian period and into the 20th Century.
Without a doubt, the most important feautre of the interior is the rood loft and screen. It was installed here in 1910 to the designs of George Bodley who had died three years earlier, and then painted in 1913 to the designs of the architect and artist Temple Moore. It is painted in a rich, late medieval style, with something of the Art Nouveau qualities of the late Victorian period but with none of the contemporary morphing of the style into the Jazz Modern of Art Deco. It depicts the Christ story from the Annunciation to the Day of Pentecost. It looks all of Bodley's work, which was presumably Temple Moore's intention.
The near contemporary south chapel echoes the decoration of the roodloft, and is a memorial chapel to those local boys killed in the First World War, a huge number of names it seems, even if this is an inner-city parish. On the north side, the chapel was laid out in the 1930s, very much in the sober Art Deco classical style of that decade, and instantly familiar from the fittings of nearby St Alban and St Catherine in north Norwich. It works very well. It is almost an anti-climax to step into the long apse with its elaborate 1890s reredos and coloured roof, which seem rather less singular. But there is a surprise behind the reredos, because here is an excellent range of figures of Saints by FW Cole and made by the Morris & Co workshop. They were installed in 1954 to replace windows blown out by the Norwich blitz. It is interesting to compare them with the contemporary range by Dennis King at St Thomas on the Earlham Road, installed there for the same reason.
One of the reasons for the continued elaboration of St Mark is that it was, until well into the 1970s, the highest and most militant Anglo-Catholic church in Norwich, a city well-known for its extremes of churchmanship. Since then it has drifted back towards the centre, but still retains the fixtures and fittings of its former life. Another striking example is the set of 1930s Stations of the Cross, deep reliefs in an italian Renaissance style and made by the Kilburn Sisters workshop.
One tiny detail that you might miss is the vestry in the south-west corner. It retains the only 19th Century window in the church, depicting Samuel and David beneath a descending dove, and remembering two choirboys drowned on an outing in the 1860s.
It is intriguing to imagine St Mark filled with incense and plainsong chant, both used at daily Mass here into the 1960s. Even more intriguing, perhaps, to imagine watching Mass from up in the gallery, because here are thast surviving box pews from the 1840s, as if this was a non-conformist chapel. They have done well to survive, because there have been regular suggestions to remove them over the last 150 years. Perhaps the installations of treasures down on the ground floor made their removal less of a priority. The nave itself was rebenched in the early 20th Century, and it is intriguing to spot, on the south side, that some of the benches and the wooden floor beneath still bear the burn marks of the falling ceiling when this church was firebombed in 1944. Apparently, the parishioners stood bravely in the church with brooms, beating out the burning timber as it fell from the roof above.
Simon Knott, June 2011
Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site.
home I index I latest I introductions I e-mail I about
this site I glossary
Norwich I ruined churches I desktop backgrounds I round tower churches
links I small print I www.simonknott.co.uk I www.suffolkchurches.co.uk