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

All Saints, Warham

All Saints: rural

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an ancient hill apparently cruciform

  All Saints, Warham

Warham is by no means a large village, but by an accident of ecclesiastical history it ended up with two substantial medieval churches. After the Reformation, the parishes were joined, and in 1960 the Diocese decided it had no further use for the other one, St Mary Magdalen, and that henceforth All Saints, near the middle of the village, would alone hold services.

The battle for the life and return to use of St Mary Magdalen is detailed on the entry for that church, but nothing should take the shine off of All Saints, for it is a lovely village church in a splendid setting. Apparently completely rural, as I am sure you'll agree from the photos, it actually sits just to the south of the village high street, on an ancient hill above the pub car park.

Although All Saints presents itself as a rather small church, hugging its graveyard, what you see today are the remains of a much larger church. This is not unusual in this part of Norfolk, but here it is easier than most to tell exactly what was there before.

The late 19th century restoration was kind to All Saints, and although both externally and internally it has the familiar veneer of a Victorianised church, the restoration was an articulate one. The ruins of the tower have been left as a feature, and you may find it odd that these are at the west end when the church itself is apparently cruciform.

In fact, it is not at all. What seem to be transepts are actually the surviving easterly bays of wide aisles, and inside you can see that the outline of the arcades have been left showing in the otherwise plastered walls. The height of the transepts shows that the aisles were low, so there probably never was a clerestory.

Inside, all is pleasantly Tractarian in a rural idiom, a result of the 1870s restoration. The east window, by Heaton Butler and Bayne, is superb. Who could fail to fall in love with the three virgin Saints on the south side? There was another big restoration in the 1890s, and in general the whole church is a testament to a remarkable man, Charles Tilton Digby. He was Rector here from 1874 to 1923, and oversaw its development from a decaying preaching space to the thing of beauty it is today. A lovely memorial to him in the long chancel tells us that he found joy and happiness in the care of his people, the birds and flowers of his garden and in the beauty of this house of God.

Very little medieval survives. There is a little brass of William Rokewode in 15th century armour by the south door - but it is partly hidden by the wheelchair ramp, which I was unable to move. And then there are the fonts. Pevsner makes a very curious error about this church. He says that it has four fonts. That alone should have been enough to set alarm bells ringing, and send him back to check his facts.

In fact, there are three. A substantial arcaded Norman font on collonades at the west end (Pevsner appears to count this one twice), a hacked about Norman bowl in the north transept, and a Georgian bird bath font, now carrying out duty as a flower receptacle on the south side of the chancel arch.

DD had mentioned this mistake to me some 18 months previously, but had not told me which church it was, setting it up for me as a puzzle to solve. Well, it didn't occur to me that this was the place when I was there, as I'd left Pevsner in the car, but coming to write it up I spotted it straight away. Got you, Dr Pevsner.

I must be honest. I suspect that the error is not Pevsner's at all, but is actually that of his editor and updater, Bill Wilson. Bill, if you are reading this, tell me I'm wrong and I'll delete this whole last paragraph.

Simon Knott, May 2005


looking east - note the arcades sanctuary looking west the arcade shows through
font font (note to Pevsner - same as the one on the left) south 'transept' font no. 2
east window beautiful Saints low side window war memorial
curious memory of the Boer War partly hidden brass ghost of a pier south transept Charles Tilton Digby


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