Blakeney Cley Salthouse Wiveton
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St Nicholas, Salthouse
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Salthouse was part of the great port of Blakeney Haven, but this has long gone, and so have the people. Today, this is a lonely place. You step into an upturned boat full of light, again like Blythburgh; and there is something else that this place shares with Blythburgh, for both were to benefit from a commodity that was in short supply in the 19th century - sheer neglect. By the time we got around to restoring this place, we had moved on from the sacramental scouring that the Victorians lavished on the great majority of English churches.
Most of the screen was moved to the back of the church in the 1930s, which is liturgically ignorant, but makes it easy to study. Given this, it is curious that Pevsner and his later editor Bill Wilson misinterpreted it, recording it as bearing 'sixteen Saints'. MR James and Mortlock both hedge their bets and identify a few Saints who are holding their familiar symbols, but the reason that they were unable to identify the others is that they are not Saints at all. The figures are in pairs, and those on the left hand side of each pair on the south side (right hand figure of each pair on the north) are clearly identifiable as Saints, mainly disciples: St Andrew with his saltire cross on the first panel of the south side, for example, and St James with his pilgrim staff as the left hand figure in the next pair to the south. Intuitively, they should all be disciples, but one Saint, on the north side, appears to wear a crown, and carries a spear and sack. Who could this be?
The other figures in each pair are quite different. They don't have halos, and they are dressed in 15th century clothes. In attitude, most are arranged to face their partnering Saint. They also have symbols of a kind, but more subtly; one holds a scroll, another a sack, a third counts on his fingers. So, who are they? I think they are donors. They are the living, breathing citizens of Salthouse in the 15th century who paid for this place to be built.
Perhaps Pevsner can be forgiven for his confusion; perhaps it was a bleak winter's day when he came here. However, one portion of the screen, still up in the chancel, is much easier to decipher, being much less damaged. This consists of two pairs of figures, a Saint and a donor in each case again. The Saints are probably St Jude (with a halberd, although he may appear on the screen at the back with his boat) and St Simon (with a fish). But the other two figures are wholly secular, and the left hand figure is a woman. And both of them are doing the same thing - carrying a purse and holding up a coin, which seems to be fairly conclusive. Assuming that the screen stretched right across the church, this must have been part of the parclose, perhaps to a chantry that remembered the souls of Sir Henry and Lady Heydon, who are generally credited with paying for the greater part of the rebuilding. So, perhaps this is them.
You can also read an introduction to the Ships of the North
an introduction to the Ships of the North
Blakeney Cley Salthouse Wiveton
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