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St Mary, Tittleshall
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There are no aisles or clerestory. You step into a fairly wide nave beneath a decent kingpost roof, the font a pleasing counterpoint to the light pouring through the great window to the east. Again, there is the feel of a pleasing yet commonplace rural interior.
And then you step through the pretty screen into the surprise of the chancel. You would not think to associate this relatively humble church with one of the richest dynasties in England, the Coke family, the Earls of Leicester. We usually associate the Cokes with Holkham, some fifteen miles to the north. But they were here first, and here some of them remain, with one of the finest collections of 17th and 18th century memorials in the county, certainly a match for the Hares at Stow Bardolph.
It was in the 1530s that Robert Coke bought the manor of Tittleshall as part of the first wave of expansion of the Holkham lands. It was a happy date in English history - for him, at least - because at this time of the Dissolution of the monasteries land was cheap and plentiful. The estate included the former medieval village of Godwick, and the ruin of the church there survives a mile or so away to the north. The monuments here date from then up unto the building of the mausoleum at Holkham in the 1870s. Work here includes monuments by Nicholas Stone and Joseph Nollekens.
Apart from the Cokes, a memorable survival here is the old Tittleshall School honours board, up on the west wall of the nave. It bears the names of eighteen children who passed scholarships to grammar school during the first sixty years of the twentieth century. Hauntingly, several of them also appear on the war memorial.
Simon Knott, September 2006
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