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

St Peter, Reymerston

Reymerston: late winter afternoon, the light thins, the details fade

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cold, bright winter day Reyemerston in winter fortress-like

    St Peter, Reymerston
nortrh door - it's still Christmas   It had been one of those glorious cold, bright winter days. But now it was late afternoon and the light was thinning, the details fading into shadow. We decided on just one more church, and it was Reymerston. Peter thought it would probably be open, but in winter I've encountered a few keyholders turning up to lock the place in mid-afternoon, so I just hoped.

We needn't have worried. Even from the road, through the gloom of the graveyard, we could see that the church door was wide open behind the bird grill. Oddly, I could see candles burning inside - this seemed strange, because Reymerston doesn't have a reputation for being high. There was no one about. We parked the car, and wandered up the path to the church, down an avenue of lime trees. The daylight was just tipping over into dusk, and I thought how fortunate it was that we had been granted this one last church of the day.

The tall blockish tower is fortress-like, a sense impressed by the massive buttress containing the stairway on the north side. It is probably as early as the 13th century, although the parapet must be a post-Reformation, pre-Victorian remodelling.

At first sight, the exterior of the aisles and clerestory speak of 15th century Perpendicular, but the chancel is earlier and so here is a building that has been substantially rebuilt over the centuries. There will be another clue to this inside.

We pushed open the bird-grill, and stepped in. It became quickly clear that here is one of those churches that I love to visit; idiosyncratic, full of unusual details, with a character all its own. The 'candles' turned out to be one of those electric Christmas arrangements that people usually put in their window, and there were still Christmas decorations around, a reminder that the pace of life in Norfolk can be a little slow - this was early February, after all.

  oil lamp and capital

Incongruously, in what is effectively a late medieval space, the arcades have gloriously ancient Early English foliage-covered capitals, showing that this was an aisled church long before the Perpendicular period. Indeed, it was probably built as a single job in the 13th century, making the arcades contemporary with the tower.

At the west end of the church is one of the finest fonts in these parts, probably early 15th century. The deeply cut panels alternate the evangelistic symbols with seated figures who may be prophets. What makes them extraordinary is their curly hair, which wouldn't be out place in Art Deco sculpture.

font: prophet font: prophet
from the north from the south from the west from the west

The wide brick floors create a feeling of space and openness, enhanced by the box pews in the aisles facing into the interior space with its medieval benches. The box pews are probably contemporary with the magnificent three-decker pulpit, which is probably late 17th century.

The furnishings in the nave are unusual, but those in the chancel must be unique. First of all, extraordinary altar rails that are said to come from a Belgian monastery. They are dated to about 1700 and are in wholly un-English baroque, with a large roundel on each side, one of the Baptism of Christ and the other which may be intended to depict the Sermon on the Mount.

Flemish altar rail chancel mid-Victorian amateur Gothic

The glass in the east window is also Flemish, featuring three figures larger than you usually see. St John and St Peter flank the figure of Christ. The choir stalls are something else. They are mid-Victorian, but quite unlike anything else I have ever seen; Gothic, but the product of someone's imagination as much as anything the Ecclesiological Movement would have recommended.

Simon Knott, February 2006


the long vista of the nave chancel three-decker pulpit Sir Robert Long 
looking east east window: St John the Evangelist, Christ, St Peter

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