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St Andrew, South Runcton
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Andrew, South Runcton
I must have passed this lonely little church dozens of times without realising it was here. It is spectacularly poorly placed, set screened by trees immediately above the busy Downham market to Kings Lynn road. This made sense in the 1880s, when it was built, but today the traffic storms past, and it is difficult enough to stop for a moment, let alone to actually park.
19th century Romanesque is rarely good, but there is something rather pleasing about St Andrew, its cupola-crowned frontage reminiscent of something you might find more easily in the backhills of Burgundy rather than in an East Anglian field. The architect was John Brown of the Norwich Diocese, and the date was 1839 - that is to say, this was one of Norfolk's first Victorian churches. Brown is an interesting architect, because he was busy just before the Ecclesiological Movement set out the rules for a 'proper' restoration. Norwich was the see of the forward-thinking Bishop Bathurst, and we may imagine that Brown had plenty of freedom. By the second half of the century, mock-Norman had become laughable, but John Brown, working on the cusp of Georgian and Victorian taste, managed to produce a number of churches in the county that are of interest and originality, in an idiom which he made his own.
Simon Knott, September 2009
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