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St Nicholas, Wells
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This is a vast, urban barn of a building, on the southern outskirts of this very interesting coastal town. St Nicholas is almost entirely Victorian; its medieval predecessor was destroyed in a fire in 1879. The new church is by Herbert Green, Diocesan Architect and a relatively safe pair of hands, and so we are left with this tame, rather bland perpendicular survival externally, and a solid urban 19th century church inside.
St Nicholas is very much in the Anglo-catholic tradition, as they all are round here, so it is normally open and welcoming, but when I arrived late one Saturday afternoon they were just setting the place up for a concert, and while nobody actually told me I wasn't welcome, the stern looks meant I scurried around as quickly as I could, photographing as much as I was able to before they threw me out.
The chancel is exceptionally huge, and must be one of the biggest in Norfolk. There is some good 19th century glass, statues of the patron Saint, but there is, I fear, an inevitable gloom to the interior, not helped by the clumpy benches of the 1880s. A church like this is a grand statement, but the congregation must rattle around in it a bit nowadays.
We left them to their concert, and hurried on to the fascinating narrow streets of the centre of the town, and the quayside beyond with its excellent delicatessen.
Simon Knott, May 2005
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