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All Saints, Runhall
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If a chancel fell into disrepair it was often blocked off and allowed to ruin, not least because the upkeep of the chancel was the responsibility of the rectory, not the parish; the beneficiary of the rectory income seems often to have shrunk from this responsibility. At Runhall, the chancel suffered a fire in the late 16th century, and was demolished, the arch filled in. Two piers still project slightly from the east end; they are the western edges of the window tracery. What appears to be a filled-in doorway is a 19th century memorial.
The setting is gorgeous. The churchyard is along a narrow lane in a maze of other narrow lanes to the south of Mattishall, with only a couple of houses for company. At first, I thought the church was locked, but I discovered that you have to turn the handle the other way, and it opens.
Behind the pulpit in the east wall is an image niche that must once have served a nave altar, another ghost of the past. Its colouring looks original, probably 600 years old. Today, the cheery kneelers and functional organ are marks of a typically loved and used English country church. Even on this cold day it felt a friendly place.
Simon Knott, February 2006
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