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

All Saints, Toftrees

Toftrees: sadly locked, but still endearing

Read the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to see them enlarged.
from the north-east (and into the late afternoon sun) south side across the fields east end 

    All Saints, Toftrees
Harry Wright, for 33 years gamekeeper on the Raynham estate   It was a bright sunny day in late spring, and John Salmon and I were exploring the churches of the Fakenham area. This was a pleasure - not just because John is good company, but because the churches are all kept open, pretty much. Some of them are stars in the Norfolk firmament, most notably South Creake, which is my favourite Norfolk church, I think. But most are small, homely little churches, with an air of simplicity, and wholly rustic.

We increasingly found interesting Norman fonts. This should come as no surprise, because some of Norfolk's finest and most famous are in this general area. I was particularly looking forward to Toftrees, because Cautley thought the font here one of the very best of all Norman fonts in East Anglia.

The trouble was, of course, that we were lulled into a false sense of security by the succession of open churches. Coming to Toftrees, we had crossed a benefice boundary, from the dozen or so churches of Father Paul Inman which are all kept militantly open every day. Still, All Saints looked delightful across the fields, splendid in its isolation with only the neighbouring farm for company.

It was locked. More than this, there was no keyholder; no notices at all that I could see, and I wondered if All Saints had gone the way of so many churches in this part of Norfolk, and was now disused, earmarked for the headlong rush into abandonment and desolation. We cleared the filth on the window at the west end of the nave, and peered in to see the wonderful font, still in situ.

Actually, I knew that All Saints was still in use - or, at least, that it had been within the last couple of years. John had been inside before, and contributes the photographs he took on that occasion.

Toftrees font (c) John Salmon Toftrees font (c) John Salmon Toftrees font (c) John Salmon Toftrees font (c) John Salmon Toftrees font (c) John Salmon Toftrees font (c) John Salmon

As you see from the images, it is a large, square font, with animal heads in the corners and knotwork on the faces. It is set on a collonade of intricate columns. Delightful. Of course, all churches once had Norman fonts, just as most Norfolk churches once had round towers. It is theology, the passing of the ages and of fashion which has replaced them. A fine survival.

And All Saints is a handsome church, which would be a sad loss. What was obstensibly a Norman church was developed in the 13th century and then dramatically altered right on the eve of the Reformation. They built the chancel, but the tower was never completed. Instead, it was topped out about two thirds of the way up, just below where the bell windows would have been, and is today finished with a jaunty copper cap.

There is an endearing continental feel to it, a most attractive sight, and I know that if it was open, and piligrims and strangers were allowed to explore it, it would soon become one of Norfolk's many much-loved churches. God willing, I will be able to go back then.

  blank Norman window

Simon Knott, July 2006


looking east (c) John Salmon sanctuary (c) John Salmon rustic organ (c) John Salmon
chancel arch and screen (c) John Salmon crucifix on an image corbel (c) John Salmon looking west (c) John Salmon

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