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All Saints, Tibenham
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Stepping inside, the interior is light and crisp, a thorough 19th century restoration giving it a rather urban, anonymous atmosphere. Neither Mortlock or Pevsner thought much of the scriptural quotations in banners around the wall, but in truth they give the church a bit of the character it cries out for. It is easy to be critical of the Victorians, and we need to remember that many large churches were in a parlous state by the early 19th century, but in truth it is so rare to find a church this big that still has the rustic feel that they worked so hard to eradicate. They succeeded here, unfortunately, but Great Ellingham, a few miles to the west, is a rare example of a big church that still feels rural.
But Tibenham church feels loved and well-used, which is what really counts if it is to continue as a living, working church. And it is not without interest, for it includes something very unusual indeed. This is the Buxton pew, an early 17th century enclosure raised some two metres above the east end of the south aisle. There are several raised pews in Norfolk; the Astley pew at in the south transept at Melton Constable for example, and the Chadd pew in the south aisle at Thursford both spring to mind. But those are both raised over the family crypt; this is the only one you can actually walk beneath.
You get to it by a staircase which turns up from the east end of the aisle, and when you get inside you are likely to see as much woodwork as anything going on below. It probably wasn't intended as a family pew at all, but as a place for the Buxton servants to sit. The Buxton arms are on the north side, and a Buxton hatchment hangs on the west.
Simon Knott, March 2006
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