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St Peter and St Paul, Oulton
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and St Paul, Oulton
The area between Aylsham and Holt can seem among the most remote in Norfolk, a landscape of scattered villages unknown to the busy traffic a few miles off on the Cromer road. Here, grand houses still stand among woods and fields, and a lattice of undulating lanes still bears mute witness to the pattern of the past. At a lost crossroads where four deep cut narrow roadways meet is St Peter and St Paul, not far from the great Hall. Elms and oaks are all about, their treetops restless on this late summer day. When the wind drops, you can hear a car approaching from miles off - but not many come this way.
The peaceful churchyard is a pleasant place to wander, and there are several interesting 18th and 19th century headstones. The church is small, and has two curious filled-in archways, one on each side, halfway down the nave. It seems there were once transept chapels, or even perhaps this church was cruciform, except that the roofline must have been very low. There was a fairly restrained 19th century restoration, which has left the curiosity of a terracotta carved and cusped archway to the priest door of the chancel.
The inscription is harshly carved, and although the sentiment is touching, you might imagine from their poorly-spelt little ditty that the Bells were rural oafs from the outback. In fact, they were people of consequence - Edmund's grandfather had been Speaker of the House of Commons under Elizabeth I. Further, this crude memorial was produced at a time when the Renaissance was in full flower in continental Europe. A telling reminder of the price the English paid for Puritanism.
A mile or so back along the road to Blickling is a rare old 18th century congregational chapel concealed by trees, its furnishings still pretty much complete. You can see some of Peter Stephens' photographs of it at the bottom of this page.
Simon Knott, September 2005
Oulton Congregational Chapel by Peter Stephens
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