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

St Mary, Stody

Stody: sturdy

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    St Mary, Stody
Coronation of the Blessed Virgin   It is always a delight to be lost in the meandering, narrow lanes of north Norfolk (except, perhaps, when I am trying to get to Sheringham in time for the next train to Norwich), and Stody seems particularly pleasing in its remoteness, with sharply doglegging lanes deeply cut beneath cushion-like fields. The church towers high above a steep bend, and you get the key from the farmhouse directly opposite, although it is beyond me why St Mary can't be open like all the other churches around here.

The curious name of the parish means simply 'an enclosure for horses' - the modern english word 'stud' comes from the same root. I'd visited Stody a couple of times in 2006, but on both occasions had found it undergoing repairs. The ancient exterior, a small cruciform church with a round tower, is beautiful; but, as you would expect, the interior has a modern crispness which comes from a recent restoration. It was a pleasure to be able to step inside at the third attempt, but in truth, there is an austerity to the furnishing, the white walls, the windows filled with clear glass, which made the place feel a little cold. The pretty roof helps to ameliorate this.

However, St Mary has a great saving grace, and the simplicity of the interior offsets it very well, because here there is one of the best collections of 15th century stained glass figures in north Norfolk. They are set high in the lights of the north side windows, and in the east side of the south transept.

Broadly speaking, there are four different groups. Firstly, an unusual set of pairs of Kings and Prophets. These will be more familiar to many from the famous screen at Kersey in Suffolk. The juxtaposition of Kings and Prophets seems to have been a late medieval enthusiasm, often pairing historical English Kings with the Old Testament Prophets. Also in the lights on this side are the remains of a set of Apostles, and, most interesting perhaps, a Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, which was probably part of an extensive scheme of Marian images. Finally, in the transept is part of a set of female Saints. Some of the images are below; click on them to enlarge them.

Philip, Bartholomew and Matthias Simon, Jude and Thomas kings and prophets kings and prophets
Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Coronation of the Blessed Virgin a king and a prophet a king and a prophet St Philip and St Bartholomew

The other old feature is a pretty Purbeck marble font, presumably of the 13th century, which sits on a collonade at the west end. I have often quoted Simon Jenkins' observation that the medieval parish churches of England constitute the world's finest folk museum, but St Mary feels more like an art gallery, with so much of the ancient dust of the past scraped away. Not much of a sense of tradition, perhaps, and rather hard to sense the long generations, but a fine setting for some beautiful jewels.

   

Simon Knott, December 2007

roof looking west looking east font
sanctuary four female Saints ledger 
lamp St Catherine female saint St Margaret

Devonshire John Crisp Paterson


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