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St George, Saham Toney
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George, Saham Toney
Just another church, then, you might think; but there is no such thing as an uninteresting medieval church, and all of them are worth a visit. Not all of them are open, and so this church is certainly worth getting down out of the saddle or off of the seat for. Even before you enter, the porch will tell you that this was a place where a considerable amount of money was spent in the century before last, and also that it has been very well cared for since. The interior you step into is dark and rich, typical of thousands of Anglican churches all over the world which were refurbished in the second half of the 19th century. We might as easily be in Armagh, Accra or Buenos Aires as in the Norfolk fields. But look again - for among the furnishings in the style of the late 15th century that were so beloved of the restorers of that time are some genuine articles, medieval bench ends applied to the new range. And, even better, there is the beautiful wine-glass pulpit, and a screen which, while without any surviving figures on its dado, is a delight in its tracery.
Perhaps the best of all the surviving furnishings is not medieval at all. This is the magnificent Laudian font cover of the 1630s, domed and collonaded, with a pelican feeding its young on top. It must be one of the best of its kind in East Anglia.
The enthusiasm of the Victorian restorers did not prevent them from conserving the best of the past, then. But it also did not stop them rather over-egging the pudding as far as the windows go. They are of variable quality, to say the least, and so it comes as some surprise to discover that much of it is some of the earliest work in Norfolk of the great WIlliam Wailes, in 1845.
Simon Knott, April 2007
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