ST MARY THE VIRGIN CHURCH

Let’s walk

A GLORIOUS EXTERIOR

Chiurch in Spring

 

Tower: 109 feet  high and richly decorated at ground level: a base course of flushwork panels, then a row of stone quatrefoils, then again a larger are of flushwork. Here the flints are all black precisely squared and set within a frame of white stone. The flints are selected for colour in such a way that they range from black at the base to white at the top, making it stand out in the landscape.

West Doorway: with shafting and deep moulding around the archway. Look for a pair of decorative stools which have tiny heads under them. Treble quatrefoils embellish the spandrels.

Intricate sound holes: a special feature of this tower, having beautiful designs. The clock face has been set at the foot of one of the tall belfry openings.

South porch: the same design as the tower with a continuation of the base course. The arch is decorated with small roses and tiny heads. A pair of blank shields could have been painted with the arms of donors, whereas the 3 shields above could have been for emblems of the figures in the canopied riches. There is a frieze of trefoils. Vaulting supports a room above the porch. Look at the central boss depicting the Coronation of the Virgin, supported by the emblems of the 4 evangelists.

South Aisle: topped by a parapet with more glorious flushwork. Gargoyles spout rainwater out onto stone soak-a-ways in the grass. A dozen shields shows a change in the pattern at the east end of the aisle.

Buttresses: of immense proportions support flying buttresses to reach up to the nave roof, added later.Above each arcade are two large clerestory windows of the 1480s. On the north side you can see the halfround turret for the rood loft stairs.

glazed sound hole

Window tracery: gives clues for dating the order of building for this church. The early building was entirely replaced, starting at the east in the 1370s working towards the tower. The chancel was improved in the 1480s, adding a two-storey vestry. Many of the working population was killed by the ‘Black Death in 1349, changing the farming to wool production, followed by the growth of weaving to wool into a fine quality cloth, earning the name “worsted”. This trade brought the wealth to build this church with the north and south aisles being used as chapels for the trade guilds.

Scratch Dial: this can be found on the buttress near the porch. the same stone was later scribed with a memorial

THE INTERIOR

A view of the nave from inside the tower makes men appear as grasshoppers. all the windows have internal shafting as a beautiful addition to a really splendid set of windows, flooding the church with a sympathetic light.

Font: on 4 tiers of steps. Decorative carving on these steps become more dramatic with each stage, leading to a climax with the tall tapering font cover. It consists of a multitude of diagonal flying buttresses and is suspended from a figure in the roof and a counter balance inside the tower.

Tower screen: a copy of an aisle chapel screen; it has modern paintings, copies of those in the windows of New College, Oxford, by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  They illustrate the virtues: faith, Charity, fortitude, Patience, Learning, Hope, Justice and Prudence. Above is the ringers’ gallery with its own delightful screen, inscribed with the date as 1501. An ancient clock rings from the belfry.

Box pews: 18th century with the seat renewed in 1966.

Nave Roof: with hammer beams and long wall posts resting on corbles. The arms of those involved in this building are displayed here: SE: Norwich Cathedral, Rous, Prior, Themelthorpe, Marsham, Brograve, Berney, Sedgwicke, Norwich Catherdral impaling Goulbrun; NW: See of Noriwch impaling Perham, Thurlow, Wharton, Albstyr, Stapleton, Walter de Suffield; the Diocese, St. Benet’s Abbey, Petre. Also, look for the fine carving in the spandrels and notice how the chancel arch was made much higher when the clerestory was added.

Three hatchments over the north door: for Sir Berney Brograve bt and his two wives. He died in 1796, with his wives dying before him. Note the true lover’s knot above the shield for his 2nd wife. His 1st wife, Jane, daughter if Edward Hawker, died in 1765, a hawk on a perch can be seen. His 2nd wife, also Jane, was the daughter of matthew Halcott of Hoe and died in 1793.

Hatchment: over the south door is for Robert Berney, who died in 1828, his crest at the top is 3 ostrich feathers. Berney has been a family in Norfolk from Saxon times to the present day. 3 Wall monuments to the Berneys are in this church.

Monumental brasses: 1: John Yop, Rector 1404: a half figure near the communion rail. 2: An unnamed civilian in the centre aisle near the screen in the style of 1502 – 6. 3: 1520 John Albastyr, a small efigy on a large slab, also near the screen, donated by him and his wife. An outline of a heart with scrolls and indents of two chalice brasses will be found among the many indents of missing brasses, being emblems for a priest.

North Aisle Chapel: has the wooden from from its original reredos. Notice the painted border and the complex architectural designs across the bottom. In 1979 the colourful tapestry of John the Baptist with Christ immersed in the river Jordan was given to the Church.

Chancel screen: Across the central beam on the beautiful scroll an inscription in latin tells us that is was donated in 1512 by John and Alice Albastyr, whose slate and brass is in the floor close by.The screen has a rich abundance of beautiful detail. The main restoration took place in 1972/74, involving the removal of thick brown paint and varnish. The first two paintings near the pulpit are 19th century replacements of our Lord as The Man of Sorrows, and St. Paul, followed by the11 apostles and St. Jerome, St. William of Norwich and St. Wilgefortis.

Parclose screen: (in the north chapel) depict N to S: Ss Lawrence, Thomas of Canterbury, Bartholomew and Philip and in the south chapel Ss Peter, Paul, John the Baptist. and Stephen.

Copied from a leaflet compiled for Church Tours in 2001 by Richard Butler Society.

St. Mary’s: Its history

 

St. Mary the Virgin

It was 30 years after the Black Death, that the wool trade sufficiently recovered to allow for weavers and well-to-do merchants to start the building of the present, perpendicular St. Mary the Virgin church. The chancel window and walls being built from the razed remains of an earllier church, dedicated to St. Andrew.
In 1485 the building was enlarged, the chancel rebuilt, the nave heightened and added to the building was the clerestory with a hammerbeam roof.
An architect’s report from 1961 states “the present condition of this magnificent building is rather poor and restoration was started in 1965 and was only finished recently (2010).

Towerscreen

 

The rood screen was erected in he early 16 century with 16 figures, including St. William of Norwich (a small boy working in the Cathedral Priory, he was murdered, his corpse found in Thorpe Wood in 1144), St. Wilgefortis, legend tells us that Portugal’s King’s daughter, having vowed virginity, grew a beard and the St. Andrew saltire.

By 1972 much of the paint and gilding of this marvelous screen was flaing away and conservation was started under the direction of Miss P. Plummer and funded by grants from the Council for the Care of Churches.

Parclose screens at the end of the north and south aisles are older by some hundred years. They retain exquisite fan vaulting, which can also be seen on the eastern face of the rood screen. Flowing lines and elaborate folded drapery of the Gothic style are discernible on the figures. There were probably two more screens on either side of the chancel, part of one fixture still remains in the arch where the organ is now situated.

St. Mary the Virgin is open on a daily basis to welcome everybody.

Chiurch in Spring

Donations are very welcome, a collection box is situated in the wall next to the door nearest to the tower.

More information can be found on the website of Norfolk Churches