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All Saints, Thwaite
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Sleepy lanes wander through woods and fields in the area to the north of Aylsham. You don't use them unless you are bound for the mostly tiny villages lost in the gentle valleys. The traffic north from Norwich for Holt, Cromer and Sheringham avoids them, hurtling onwards a few miles to the west and east. Many of the parish churches are away from their village centres; some of the parishes, Thwaite for example, have no real village centre at all.
Thwaite tower is a landmark on the road to Aldborough, its round tower peeping above the trees. It probably dates from the 12th century, with bell openings of a century later. It was probably built against an already existing church, although the defining features of that church now are newer; the south aisle can be dated by will evidence as from the 1440s, but it was the early 19th century that brought the chancel and large north chancel 'chapel', which was probably always intended as a school room and vestry, judging by the large fireplace. The pre-Ecclesiological flavour of their details is charming.
Having not yet stumbled at Alby, I was confident of being able to see inside, and despite the remoteness of the church from other buildings it provided us with a warm welcome. The inside is entirely rustic, a real church of the common people. The south aisle is full of light and old benches, with Victorian ones set against the north wall. The cut down screen has deeply cut tracery, painted red, gold and green. Mortlock detected the hand of the Aylsham screen maker.
The beautiful pulpit with its tester is dated 1624 in a large inscription on the backboard. Best of all, and to be expected in this part of Norfolk, a fine figure brass, a double one, to John Puttok and his wife. Interestingly, they died almost thirty years apart, Puttok first in 1442. The previous year, there had been a bequest for the building of the south aisle, and Puttok's will of a year later asked that he should be buried in it. Was it already built by then? Whatever, that is where the brass is now.
Faith and Charity are rich and elegant in the mid-Victorian manner in the nave; but the chancel is full of simple white light, and less cluttered and complex spaces than this chancel would be hard to find. After enjoying the gorgeous Anglo-catholic riches of the churches to the south, this was like a breath of fresh air.
Simon Knott, October 2005
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