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St Peter, Smallburgh
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But if not wholly in keeping it is seemly and imparts a certain amount of gravitas not typical of the period. I rather liked it, especially the crossed keys below the bells. No doubt about the patron Saint here.
More curious are the windows to south and north of the nave. No aisles here, no clerestory; the walls were heightened, presumably in one campaign, but the windows are a mixture of Perpendicular and Decorated. There is a symmetry to them, the earlier style in the middle flanked by two of the later on both sides of the church. I wondered if the Decorated windows were actually a Victorian conceit, although they appear to be genuine, unlike the tracery of the great east window, which is Victorian.
Entering the church, there is a spartan austerity about the interior that matches the west front. This contrasts greatly with the vividly painted roof, which is contemporary with the rebuilt west end, but was painted in the 1920s under the direction of the Rector's wife. The interior is certainly unlike other Norfolk village churches. I'd guess it is something of an acquired taste.
Actually, I found the roof quite interesting. In the style of a traditional Norfolk hammerbeam roof (though I assume that the hammerbeams are false) it is painted with texts rather than images - the Te Deum Laudamus to south and north, and Psalm 150 forming a canopy of honour at the east end. I thought this showed that the Rector's wife must have had a good understanding of medieval liturgical dynamics, because general thinking nowadays is that the angel roofs of medieval churches were exactly this; not mere decoration, but a hymn of praise reflecting the devotional activities in the space below. Interestingly, the hammerbeam ends stick out into the air, and ache to have angels on the end of them, but there are none. I wonder if they were ever intended?
Despite all this modern rebuilding and redecoration, there are some interesting medieval survivals here. The rood screen dado is painted with eight Saints; they are in very poor condition, but enough survives to make identification of some of them possible. On the north side are St Anthony with his little pig, a King (possibly Henry VI), St Benedict and what must have been a fine St George. On the south side, in rather better condition, are St Giles with a fine leaping hart, St Lawrence with his grid iron and two figures that are almost entirely lost, except that they appear to be the ghosts of bishops.
Simon Knott, April 2005
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