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

St Andrew, Tottington

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Tottington church from the south-east "Out of bounds to troops" South porch.

Base of the font - it now sits under the tower.
Joseph Duffield, 1756 Robert Knopwood, 1723. William and Mary Farrer, 1775 and 1791 William Farrer, 1808 Rev. Hugh and Anne Hare, 1847 and 1838
Margaret Knopwood, 1729

    St Andrew, Tottington

All around, the wind ruffles the waves of coarse grass. Oblivious sheep wander slowly, their new lambs skittering in their wake. As we approach the church up what was, sixty years ago, the village high street, I see a handsome buck deer standing among reeds beyond the trackside. He doesn't flinch. Here, a row of council houses still stands, refurbished as a northern Irish village during the time of the conflict there, but the Norfolk clunch cottages have otherwise gone back to ground, melting down as the decades pass. Here and there, a chimney stands defiantly, but that is all.

St Andrew stands at what would have been the top of the village, and the mound to the east is the old Rectory. To the south was the village pub. The roofs of the church are curious; they are not tiles at all, but blast-proof sheets installed to protect the building. These accentuate the lowness of the pretty Victorian clerestory, but otherwise the tower and nave put me in mind of neighbouring Thompson, outside the battle area.

On this bright spring day the church is full of light. The roof tiles are stored inside, awaiting reuse, and also here are the medieval benches, their dusty ends rounded with animals. After the evacuation here, they were taken to nearby Rockland, where they were altered to fit one of the churches there. Now returned, they are too small for this wide open space, and so they sit here, awaiting an uncertain future.

The chancel seems small after this wideness. The Victorian decalogue boards still stand where the altar once was. This must have been a busy place in medieval times, because as well as the elegant sedilia and piscina in the chancel, there is a dropped-sill sedilia at the eastern end of the south aisle, and a pretty little piscina in an angle at the eastern end of the north aisle.

In the floor are 18th century ledger memorials to Knopwoods and Farrers; wall memorials remember Duffields and Hares. High above, patient faces stare from the corbels of the arcades. Silence. Time passes.

Outside are more silent attendants, Leggates and Suttons, Boughens and Oldfields. And there are surprises. One, a headstone for a member of the famous Guinness family; their country estate was a few miles to the south of here at Elveden. Charlotte Guinness died while on a visit to the Rectory here in 1924. She was 75 years old. And in the south-east corner of the graveyard, daffodils fly in the spring breeze above the last resting place of Lucilla Reeve. This remarkable woman lived at Bagmore Farm on the edge of the village, and continued to tear a living from the harsh Breckland soil even after the military takeover. She killed herself on Remembrance Day 1950, and was buried here on the edge of the graveyard.

After the war, the Tottington war memorial was moved to neighbouring Thompson, on a road that led once to the now-lost village. You can still see it there to this day.

Arthur Mee came here to Tottington in the 1930s when there were still people living here. In his flowery way, he recalled something that is now often forgotten. Tottington was the home village of Abbot Sampson, who made the Abbey of St Edmundsbury one of the most powerful in Europe, and is remembered still today as the symbol of the Greene King brewery.

  Tottington war memorial

Simon Knott, May 2004

you can also read an introduction to the churches of the Norfolk battle training area


Churchyard: south-west corner Churchyard: south side of the nave. Churchyard: eastern wall of the chancel.
Jane and Robert Leggate, late 18th century. Maria Williams, late 19th century. Marner/Sutton, 1830s.
James Boughen, 1860. John and Arthur Oldfield, 1890. Mary and Robert Herring, early 20th century. Charlotte Anne Guinness, 1924. Tottington war memorial
Grave of Lucilla Reeve - Tottington village beyond. Tottington war memorial

an introduction to the churches of the Norfolk battle training area



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