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

All Saints, Threxton

Threxton

Threxton

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All Saints, Threxton

The Breckland to the north of the Battle Training Area can be a sad place, the quietly forgotten hamlets and the lonely churches scattered carelessly across the fields and copses as if by a giant uncaring hand. However, Threxton church is a memorable sight from the Watton road, its round tower rising above the trees with just a farm for company. White's 1844 Directory described it as a small antique fabric in a romantic dell. The tracery of the bell openings is typical of the 13th Century, and Pevsner thought it likely that the tower was entirely of this date, and it certainly seems all of a piece. However, he also points out that evidence of a Saxon nave 21 feet wide was found during the restoration of 1865, a fascinating thought. The church as we see it today seems pretty much all of the late 13th and early 14th Centuries, contemporary with the tower and perhaps a complete rebuilding of that time. The 19th Century restoration had a relatively light touch, the nave and chancel roofs making their mark externally but not a lot else. There is a north aisle, but the nave roof comes down without interruption over it, giving the curious impression of it huddling under a wing.

You enter a clean, light space in which the most striking feature is the sequence of vinework patterns painted along the north arcade. They are restored, but likely contemporary with the 13th Century building of the arcade. The font standing against it is also likely to near-contemporary, perhaps no more than fifty years later. The tiled floors and most of the furnishings came as part of the 19th Century restoration. They are simple and somewhat over-awed by the grand 17th Century pulpit that faces them. Incidentally, a curiosity tucked into the tower arch is an ecclesiologically correct umbrella stand, with the rack and tray between two poppyheaded-bench ends, presumably the work of a late 19th Century church furnishings supplier.

Mary Knopwood's memorial of 1737 in the nave would not be so imposing in a larger church. It records that she was of a most meek temper and candid disposition, endu'd with the most endearing qualities, fairly typical sentiments on a memorial in the 18th Century, and it goes on to tell us that her husband was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1751. The one earlier survival than all this is the collection of fragmentary glass in an aisle window. It is mostly English of the 15th Century, but I think it also contains some fragments of later continental glass, and so it is likely to have been ordered from a dealer in the early 19th Century, perhaps JC Haamp of Norwich, and installed as decoration as was common at that time. It still enhances what is a charming and attractive interior.

At the time of the 1851 census, when the populations of many rural East Anglian parishes were reaching their peak, there were sixty-one people living in Threxton, twenty-three of whom attended the afternoon sermon in the church. This is a surprisingly high proportion for Norfolk, and the Reverend Salisbury Everard, the rector of Threxton, was proud enough of this fact to point out in the return that at the previous census there had been only a dwelling house, a farm house and one cottage in the parish. Eight cottages have been built within the last three years. Everard received about 240 a year for his incumbency at Threxton, roughly 48,000 in today's money, but it is likely that the sermon here was not given by him but by a poorly paid deputy. Everard didn't even live at Threxton, for he was also vicar of Swaffham and in receipt of Vicarial tithes there worth a whopping 600 a year, about 120,000 today. His Swaffham attendance of almost eight hundred was one of the largest in all Norfolk that afternoon, but even so it must have been a comfortable sort of life.

Simon Knott, July 2022

looking east sanctuary looking west
font heraldic glass fragments (15th and 16th Century) Untitled
fragments (15th and 16th Century) fragments (15th and 16th Century) fragments (15th and 16th Century) fragments (15th and 16th Century)
painted arcade umbrella stand

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