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St Peter and St Paul, Shernborne
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and St Paul, Shernborne
There's not much to Sherborne beyond the little church and some pretty cottages. Huddled in its valley as it is, you could spend an awful lot of time in Norfolk without realising it existed. The church was one of those rebuilt as part of the grand scheme of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, to improve the villages around the Sandringham estate. This area was one of the poorest in England by the late 19th Century, and the extent to which the purchase of the Sandringham estate by the future King changed west Norfolk forever is not always realised. The architect here was Herbert Green, from the Diocese, not one of the late 19th Century's more creative imaginations. Mortlock points out that Sir Reginald Blomfield was 'consulted' - at the time, Blomfield, a favourite architect of the Royals, was working on Sandringham church, and one likes to imagine the Prince going up to the building site and enquiring confidentially of him, 'this Green chap - d'ye think he's up to the job?'
Ironically, church historians have a bit of a downer on Green because of his passion for neo-Norman, which he resisted here at Shernborne, but it is an enthusiasm which may have caused him to treat its most significant feature with the utmost respect. There are a group of about twenty Norman fonts in the north-west corner of Norfolk which are considered among the finest in the kingdom, and Shernborne font is the best of them.
If somebody produced the Sherborne font today we'd think it was pretty amazing. That it was carved almost a thousand years ago, and has been here ever since, is staggering. The key design feature is the use of plaited knotwork which trails around the font almost like foliage. All four sides are different. Faces peer out, figures in roundels strike mystifying attitudes. It is remarkable.
A heartbreaking brass plaque on the nave wall is to Robert and Charles Pitcher, two brothers killed in the First World War. What makes it so sad is that they were both killed on the same day, 19th April 1917, in the Battle of Gaza. How does a parent ever get over something like that happening?
Simon Knott, August 2016
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