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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk

All Saints, Stanhoe

Stanhoe: a church and its trees

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south-west tower west end of nave

    All Saints, Stanhoe
19th century memorial   This big church in the hills north of Fakenham is surrounded by trees, which make it the very devil to photograph, I can tell you. While I was doing my best to get far enough away without filling the viewfinder with green, a man who was cutting the grass came across and asked, in a pointed way, if he could help me.

"Well, you could lop down that yew tree for a start", I felt like saying. But an urban sense of politeness overcame me. "I'm hoping that the church is open", I hinted.

He thought for a moment. "It's open right enough", he said. "But she's just cleaned the floors and she won't thank you for walking on them."

Once I'd realised that he wasn't being deliberately obstructive, and was simply a local character, we got along fine. Once we'd stepped through the south-west tower, a common feature in this area of the county, into the rather big and gloomy interior, he put all the lights on for us, which I always take as an affirmation of the site. To be honest, it didn't make a huge amount of difference to the gloom; the large interior has aisles and a high nave roof lifted by arcades, but for some reason there are no clerestory windows.

Actually, I rather liked this. It gave the church a sense of gravitas, which had quite obviously been intended by its Victorian makeover, which was pretty overwhelming. I'm not saying that I'd want to experience it every Sunday, mind you. But All Saints is obviously well-loved and looked after, and there is some wholly excellent late 19th and early 20th century glass, including a super window of the angels appearing to shepherds on the hills above Bethlehem.

angels angels - Ward & Hughes angels - Ward & Hughes angels

Two beautiful angel musicians are by Burlison & Grylls - I thank Aidan Thomson for the identification of these and other artists here. Glass by Charles Kempe, Henry Holiday and Ward & Hughes is, of course, the quality end of the Victorian scheme, and it isn't all good news at Stanhoe. The 19th century font is rather magnificent in a terrifying kind of way, and you thank God that other East Anglian parishes didn't have the money that was obviously here to replace their surviving medieval ones. It would not be out of place in an Anglo-catholic temple in Calcutta or Melbourne.

But this is a fine building, and all of a piece; a big, solid church, redolent of its Victorian ghosts. With both north and south doors wide open, it is also one of the most welcoming churches in the area, if you are not put off by the characterful custodian.


Simon Knott, September 2006

looking east I looking east II
south door and porch under tower font and north door chancel looking west font and war memorial
scenes from the life of Christ - Kempe Angels appear to Shepherds - Ward & Hughes scenes from the life of Christ angel musicians angel musicians - Burlison & Grylls
scenes from the Resurrection Suffer the Children Crucifixion Adoration of the Shepherds heraldic sequence

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The Norfolk Churches Site: an occasional sideways glance at the churches of Norfolk