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

St Peter and St Paul, Sustead

Sustead: one of those pretty little round towered churches

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Humphrey Repton's view rood stair turret tower with a south door from the north

    St Peter and St Paul, Sustead

St Peter and St Paul, Sustead, is one of those pretty little round towered churches in the area south of Sheringham. The walls are pleasingly patched up with the red brick of various ages. l had read that the architect and landscape gardener Humphrey Repton had lived for ten years in a house in the village, and must have known the church well. I looked for hints of the late 18th century, but I don't suppose he did much here, always being busy sorting country houses out. Still, the locals must have known who he was, and it was amusing to imagine the churchwardens knocking on his door, tugging their forelocks and asking for his advice on the drains.

Like near-neighbour Aylmerton, the tower has a doorway in the outside, facing south. Unlike Aylmerton, there is no tower arch here - there is no means of communication between the tower and the nave. The nave has a pleasing mix of 14th and 15th century windows, a couple with angel musicians in the tracery, and interior features speak confidently of the best kind of rural Decorated; but in any case there was a major 19th century restoration here, which has also left a good account of itself. The 15th century font has shields, some heraldic, but including a Holy Trinity, and there is the ghost of a former transept in the north wall.

There is a delightful little late 17th century pulpit with angels carved on it, curious to say the least. The Victorians heavily restored the screen, but left behind some interesting features of their own. The south chancel windows are by Christopher Whall, and depict the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, both common subjects interpreted in a fresh way. I also like the painted chancel roof.

The late 1920s have left another great curiosity. The east window has restrained motifs of late Art Nouveau; but the central top light is unashamedly Jazz Modern, the kind of Art Deco that was used in cinemas and road houses, and in the cabinets of radios. If this is conteporary with the motifs below, then it shows two major schools of 20th century design in transition from one to the other. This is a most unusual survival.

Simon Knott, October 2005


looking east font ghost of a transept high windows angel on the pulpit
east window - Art Nouveau becomes Art Deco Decorated I Decorated II Christopher Whall 'Prodigal Son' - detail angel musician I angel musician II
Jazz Modern The Good Samaritan - Christopher Whall Christopher Whall 'Good Samaritan' - detail Christopher Whall - William Wailes
chancel altar in the sanctuary

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