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

St Peter and St Paul, West Newton

West Newton: stately, at the heart of a pretty village

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north side on its mound at the heart of the village porch

    St Peter and St Paul, West Newton
memorial window: a magnificent St George   West Newton is a pretty little village at the heart of the Sandringham estate. It is, in my opinion, the very model of what an estate village should be. The workers houses are fine, and constructed to a high standard. There are workshops that serve the estate, and one of those friendly-looking social clubs that you get in villages around here - it is said that Queen Alexandra disapproved of pubs, and so Edward VII gave the villages social clubs instead.

All of this is in the Arts and Crafts vernacular style of the day, and arranged pleasingly around the church of St Peter and St Paul on its mound at the heart of the village. On this day in June the sky was blue, the heat of the day hazy. From the social club, a wedding reception spilled out onto the slopes around the church. Children ran around playing, while red-faced men in suits laughed and clung tightly to their pints. On such a sunny day it felt a privilege to be here.

The 14th century tower of the church is grand and stately, and its solid carstone with freestone corners looks as if it might be made of gingerbread and icing. A beautiful contemporary image niche sits beside the west window. The 19th century pinnacles at the top are jaunty, if a little out of context on this tower. The body of the church is also carstone, built of blocks on the south side and in slipped layers on the north, as if this was a vast dry stone wall.

The churches of north-west Norfolk were in a pretty dreadful state by the middle of the 19th century. There are more ruined churches here than anywhere else in England. The purchase of the Sandringham estate by the Prince of Wales revitalised the local economy, and his patronage led to some pretty substantial restorations, most of which are to a very high standard in terms of both design and construction.

Few of the estate restorations were more substantial than that of West Newton. Apart from the tower, the church was almost completely rebuilt in 1880. The architect was, perhaps surprisingly, Arthur Blomfield, who we rarely see on such an intricate scale in East Anglia. Here, he is at his highest, putting into practice the Prince of Wales's Anglo-catholic sympathies and producing a very Arts and Crafts feel to the interior, particularly with the cottage-style windows in the aisles.

  memorial window: the hell of Suvla Bay

memorial window in full memorial window: inscription memorial window: Norfolk Regiment

In such a small church it is inevitable that the glass is experienced on an intimate scale, so it is just as well that it is all fairly good. Pevsner says it is all by Heaton, Butler and Bayne in the thirty years or so after the rebuilding, except for the poignant WWI memorial by Karl Parsons. This depicts a magnificent St George, and remembers the Norfolk Regiment, almost wiped out at the hell of Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles in one appalling day, the 12th of August 1915. This is sad enough; immediately beside it is another memorial to the men killed further up the coast at Inkerman during the Crimean War sixty years earlier. And the men of Norfolk still had Singapore to come.


Simon Knott, July 2006

cottage window looking east Inkerman
Heaton, Butler and Bayne: St Cecilia looking west south aisle, east window sanctuary font and arcade Heaton, Butler and Bayne: Crucifixion
Heaton, Butler and Bayne: Isaiah and St John the Baptist Heaton, Butler and Bayne: the Baptism of Christ and the Feast of Melchizidek Heaton, Butler and Bayne: St Felix and St Etheldreda Heaton, Butler and Bayne: St Matthew and St Mark Heaton, Butler and Bayne: St Luke and St John Heaton, Butler and Bayne: St Cecilia and St Gregory

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