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All Saints, Shotesham
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Shotesham, pronounced shot-s'm, is one of the villages in this lost valley, although it might be more accurate to describe it as a parish, as it sprawls pleasingly along back lanes. It had no less than four medieval churches. One has almost completely disappeared, another is a handsome ruin, but the other two, All Saints and St Mary, are still in use, and they face each other like fortresses on hilltops either side of the valley, a mile or so apart. All Saints is closer to civilisation than St Mary, with a beautiful village green at hand and some lovely cottages.
The large windows in the nave and the Perpendicular tower make the church look newer than it is - the nave has the proportions of a much earlier building. The chancel is pretty much all from the start of the 20th century, with a shed-like south chancel chapel which Pevsner charitably suggested might be on the site of a predecessor.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the outside is the large sanctus bell turret on the eastern gable of the nave. A giant eagle sits on it, unable to take flight as his wings have been broken, but proud nonetheless. It is obviously a composite, although I have read a story that it was found in the churchyard and 'restored to its original place'. Barmy Arthur Mee, in one of his more wayward fancies, thought it was a vulture. It looks rather like something that might have come off of a pinnacle of a spirelet.
You step into a long, tunnel-like interior; there are no aisles, and few windows in the nave. Some grand memorials line the walls, but later restoration has revealed part of a fascinating sequence of wall paintings now partly concealed beneath them. The best is of St Lawrence being slowly toasted on a grid iron, and there is also a dynamic St George further along the same wall. Opposite St Lawrence is a jaunty fellow in a plumed cap, who looks as if he might have been restored a bit fancifully.
All Saints is a narrow church, and there is rather less light than there might be if the glass was clear. However, what there is is mostly very good; several of the windows are glazed in a colourful abstract pattern that appears to be Art Nouveau becoming Jazz Modern. A particularly fine window on the north side depicts Christ in Majesty on the Day of Judgement, a richly detailed piece with attendant angels and people. I thought it was very good indeed.
But St Mary has the better font; the 15th century East Anglian one here is a near-twin, but it has been very recut, and now hides beneath the tower which forms a kind of baptistry for it.
Simon Knott, September 2006
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