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

All Saints, Winterton

Winterton

Winterton Winterton (photographed in 2006)
Winterton (photographed in 2006) south porch (photographed in 2006) Winterton
Winterton

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  All Saints, Winterton

Cycling out from Great Yarmouth through East Norfolk's relentless coastal strip can be mildly depressing, but eventually you reach the countryside beyond Hemsby and the village of Winterton comes into view. I say the village, but it is the grand tower of Winterton church that first beckons you, for it is 134 feet high and thus the fourth tallest church tower in Norfolk after Cromer, St Peter Mancroft in Norwich and the west tower at Wymondham. Paul Cattermole and Simon Cotton transcribed a bequest of 1387 made by Adam de Tunstead to the tower, and in 1444 Richard Ball left 20d to the bells. There were several further bequests in the 1440s to the bells, so this perhaps suggests the decade in which the tower was completed. It rises in seven distinct stages, and another indicator of the time it took to be built is that the lower part, including the tower arch, is 14th Century in style, the upper parts very much in the new Perpendicular mode of the following century.

Pevsner considered that the tower was the result of the hubris of prosperous Norfolk merchants, but this seems harsh, for there was a much wider imperative for leaving money to church rebuilding in the late medieval period, not least the need to ensure that your soul was prayed for after your death.Incidentally, the tower has two separate stairways, which it would be nice to think were sometimes used by late medieval athletes for races to the top. Given the height of the tower and that the church below it is not a small one, it is perhaps surprising that there are no aisles or clerestories. Pevsner suggested that there had once been aisles when the church was rebuilt in the 14th Century, but these were swept away when the nave was remodelled a century later, and a single new roof run across from one wall to the other, and that is probably correct. The starkness of the exterior of the nave and chancel can be put down to the 1870s restoration by Herbert Green.

The sheer bulk of the tower disguises quite how substantial the two-storey south porch is, with the arms in the spandrels of Sir John Falstoffe of Caister Castle. He died in 1459, and this probably dates the porch, which you step through into the west end of the nave. Inevitably there is a feel to the interior of Green's customary heavy-handed work, but there is also the charm of what feels an old-fashioned space, as though not a lot has changed here in the last century or so. Winterton was once high in the Anglo-Catholic firmament, and is still part of the group of east Norfolk churches that maintain a traditionalist stance. Although the aisles have gone, the nave is wide enough to allow two little chapels, one at the east end of each side. That to the south forms a lady chapel, while the one on the north side is dedicated to St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. A poignant memorial in this aisle is in Proud and Loving memory of Clarence Albert Pratt Porter, Rector of this Parish. It records that he gave his life rescuing one of the choirboys from drowning on Winterton beach, July 7th 1932.

Not much of Winterton's medieval life survives. There is a small brass inscription to a member of the Keyman family, dated 1525. Font and screen are both from the 1870s restoration as are the furnishings. Twenty years earlier, at the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, the population of Winterton was a little over seven hundred, of whom fifty four chose to attend morning worship that day. They were outnumbered by the sixty eight scholars, who had no choice but to be there. As you would expect, the afternoon sermon attracted a far higher attendance of more than two hundred including the scholars. The Reverend John Nelson, the incumbent, recorded in his return that there was seating for 330, or about that number, and it is hard to think that Winterton church could ever have been full during those early Victorian doldrums for the Church of England.

In answer to the question about average attendances, which of course was the main interest of those who had commissioned the census, Nelson replied impatiently that not being in the habit of counting the congregation I cannot give any accurate average number of attendants. Perhaps it may be a little under that of March 30th 1851 (census day). Nelson might have been feeling a bit defensive about his annual income of a little under 580, roughly 115,000 a year in today's money, half of which came from his being rector of neighbouring East Somerton where nobody lived and the church was in ruins, for he was also moved to point out that out of this sum I pay 100 in rates and taxes. This kind of response was not uncommon in the census returns, and perhaps the old guard could already sense that the shock waves emanating from the young guns of Oxford would change their Church forever.

Simon Knott, June 2023

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looking east sanctuary
north nave chapel high altar (photographed in 2006) south nave chapel
font John and Persis Lens, 1779 Christus Rex (photographed in 2006) Blessed Virgin and child
Saint Nicholas (photographed in 2006) Clarence Porter who gave his life rescuing one of the choir boys from drowning on Winterton beach (photographed in 2006)
Francis Mary Ellen Currie, Artist and Poet who passed from blindness into light, 1940

 
   
               
                 

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