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

St Remigius, Roydon

Roydon: elegant

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enticing fine stately beacon apparently perp 

    St Remigius, Roydon
welcoming   I'd seen this church for years. Its stately round tower is a beacon for miles across the upper Waveney Valley, and when I had been visiting the churches of Suffolk I often noticed it beckoning enticingly across the border. And then, to Norfolk; coming up from Ipswich, I would often get off the train at Diss and head off on the Thetford road through Roydon, a pretty place which we will be too polite to call a suburb.

As with many of the churches around here, I knew St Remigius to be an open, welcoming place; and yet, I had never stopped. It was always a place I was saving, and in the winter of 2006 my time came at last. Peter and I were finishing off the churches between Diss and Thetford, and decided we would do the friendly ones first.

This meant those near to Diss - I am at a loss to understand why most of the churches in the Thetford area lock out us strangers and pilgrims in such a hard-hearted way, but that is a story which we must save for later. So, with smiles on our faces we approached St Remigius, a bold sign in the north porch reminding us that ROYDON CHURCH WELCOMES VISITORS.

The porch itself is worth a look, with its fine flushwork and five niches tiered above the entrance. It is in the Perpendicular style, and is echoed by the crown of the tower, and the south aisle, and the east end of the chancel, and so you might think that we have a church here that is largely the work of the 15th century, apart from the tower itself. In fact, this is not the case. The top of the tower is Victorian, and so is the aisle, and so is the tracery of the east window, but they are done exceptionally well, and now seem wholly organic. The body of the church itself is much older than the 15th century.

The vestry on the south side of the chancel is actually the medieval south porch, contemporary with the north porch and moved to this position by the Victorians. Where it once stood is now an excellent modern suite of parish hall and meeting rooms of the new century, one of the best of its kind that I have seen, at once discreet and elegant.

  a porch worth looking at

I was pleased to learn from Sarah Briscoe of the Roydon PCC that the ceiling in the Parish Room is made from an old cedar tree which grew in the churchyard. She tells me that this cedar was diseased and had to be felled, so the timber was kept and made into boards to be used in the new Parish Room. The cross in the room and the frames for the noticeboards in the room and the church are also made from the tree.

This elegance is repeated inside the body of the church. Just as with the outside, the interior is essentially a Victorian rebuilding, but this is done so well that there is a feeling of continuity, despite there being few medieval survivals. The most interesting are probably the corbel heads in the arcade, which reveal that a Norman church was substantially rebuilt in the 13th century.

13th century head 13th century head 13th century head 13th century head 

Here in the aisle, and elsewhere in the church, are memorials to the Frere family, with spare and heartbreaking inscriptions that are well-known enough to make them a goal of visitors here. Temple Frere, we are told, was drowned when saving the life of a fellow-student; he died in 1840, at the age of 22. A little further along the same wall is Griffith Temple Frere, who died in the fire which consumed the Vicarage-House at Warfield, Berks, in the night of 14th March 1839. He was just two years old.

Temple Frere Temple Frere Griffith Temple Frere

There's another striking memorial up in the chancel. Richard Edward Frere died in 1842 in India, at Rawalpindi - or, as the memorial puts it, Rawul Pindee. He is not buried here. The inscription reads:

Empire loyalist   Heroic England, prodigal of life,
Sends forth to distant enterprise and strife
Her daring offspring: We must not repine
If from the frozen circle to the line
Our graves are scatter'd; And the sole relief
For kindred sorrows and parental grief,
Is to record upon an empty tomb
Merit and worth, and their untimely doom.

The Royal Arms are interesting. My correspondent Bryan Kitson points out that someone has added G R at the top, but the heraldry is certainly of that short second half of Queen Anne’s reign following the union with Scotland (1707-14). But the motto is Dieu et mon Droit, not Anne’s invariable Semper Eadem, so these Arms may well have been amended more than once. The usually indefatigable Cautley merely states they are for George I! Simple, elegant coloured glass in the chancel completes the harmony of this pleasing interior. In the east window are St Susannah, St Remigius and St Elizabeth; best of all is the decorative glass in the north chancel window, an Arts and Craftsy pattern of roses and lilies. A church, then, to lift the spirits.

Simon Knott, January 2007


looking east looking west in the chancel west end east end font
'fill the water pots with water' 'this is my beloved son' Susannah Remigius Elizabeth 
angels roses and lilies royal arms
extension dedication Hoses

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