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All Saints, Stanhoe
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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.
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
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