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St Peter, Rockland St Peter
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Rockland St Peter
The tower reminds me of the one nearby at Breckles. Round towers of this kind are often assumed to be Saxon or Norman, with a bell stage added in the 14th century, but in fact it was probably all built in one go, and none of this is earlier than about 1300. The south porch was rebuilt in the 17th century, with the crude inscriptions typical of the time. The chancel was presumably ruinous, and was rebuilt on a smaller scale in the 19th century.
The most striking feature of the interior is the screen which is, curiously, two thirds of the way along the nave. The reason for this is that it didn't originally come from this church at all, but was brought here in the 1950s from nearby Tottington church, now in the Battle Training Area, to which access is forbidden. I had been to Tottington the previous year, and had seen the fixings in the chancel arch there where it had been removed. Now I was seeing the screen itself.
It has six lights, three either side of the entrance, and there are the remains of buttressing, more commonly found in the north-east of the county. You can the screen, and its original location, here.
At the west end of the nave is one of the biggest fonts I've seen in Norfolk, a massive, tracery carved affair in front of the tower screen, hich I take to be part of the original Rockland rood screen that Bloomfield saw here 'with four figures'. There are none now.
Coming back into the nave, I remembered that the medieval benches from Tottington had also been brought to this church in the 1950s, and are still mentioned as being here in the most recent edition of Pevsner. So where are they now?
Well, I'll tell you. They were returned to Tottington church in the 1990s, after the roof and windows there were made sound, as part of a project to 'normalise' the four churches in the zone. Not that there is ever any chance of public access ever being granted to the churches in the Battle Training Area; or, at least, not to Tottington and Stanford, which are both in the live firing zone at the heart of it. However, when they were returned they found that they had been shortened by the churchwardens of Rockland St Peter in the 1950s to fit them into the church. They are now too short for Tottington nave, and sadly lie stacked up in the church there along with the original tiles from the roof. But you can see them here.
A gorgeous church then,such a contrast with the village's other church at All Saints; this feels like a living, organic building, not least because it is both beautiful and welcoming. I shall come back soon.
Simon Knott, January 2006
you can also read about my visit to Tottington
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