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

Holy Trinity, West Runton

West Runton: a touch unorthodox

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north side

    Holy Trinity, West Runton
merman in the aisle west gable   merman in the nave west gable   If you look at a map, West Runton is at the heart of the straggle of Poppyland development from Sheringham to Cromer, about halfway between the two towns.

Although there is an element of it which provides suburbia to both, it is in fact a rather wild place, with woods on the hill above and a dramatic seascape, the low cliffs topped by Beeston Regis church. There is a third Anglican parish church at East Runton, a mile or so off.

West Runton parish church is set back from the cliff about a quarter of a mile away, not far from the railway station. Curiously, both station and church have almost no parking, and if you have come by car then your best bet is to park in one of the sea front car parks, and walk back.

For me, West Runton is forever associated with the West Runton Pavilion, a 1930s building which became a major venue on the late 1970s live music circuit. As a fifteen year old, I saw The Jam here in 1977, and then slept on the beach afterwards. What on earth were my parents thinking of in letting me go?

The exterior of Holy Trinity is a touch unorthodox. The south aisle has alternating high and low windows, while the vast windows of the chancel, reaching to the roofline, dwarf everything westward.There is no clerestory, just a blank wall. There is no telling quite how much of this is original, and how much a result of two hefty 19th century restorations. Certainly, the chancel windows are Victorian, and the aisle has been refaced, but I like to think that the aisle windows may be the result of some maverick 15th century mason. A curiosity is the pair of figures carved on the west gable of nave and aisle. They both appear to be mermen.

Stepping inside, I could see that West Runton church was firmly in the Anglo-catholic tradition of many churches along this coast. Today it is probably fairly mainstream, but there is still one of the best collections of late 19th and early 20th century glass in north-east Norfolk. Most famous is the 1959 window by Harry Stammers, firmly in the Festival of Britain style.

Harry Stammers, 1959 Harry Stammers, 1959 Harry Stammers, 1959 Harry Stammers, 1959 Harry Stammers, 1959

It depicts generations of parishioners worshipping the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, from medieval knights and ladies at the bottom, up to a state of the art space age 1950s family at the top. The little boy is holding his mum's hand; he has a train set, his big brother a football. Their sister holds dad's hand, and all five look up at the shining chalice and host. The figures look like illustrations out of a 1950s school book, and the sentiment of the window also seems a world away from the modern Church of England.

   

Simon Knott, August 2006

looking west looking east Ascension
north aisle south aisle font St Francis
east window St George and St Cecilia St George (detail) St Francis 
risen Christ and angel angel (detail) St Hilary and St Stephen Elizabeth with John the Baptist, Mary with the infant Christ 
Hanoverian royal arms St Peter and St John


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