Category Archives: Norfolk

Women and Women saints in Norfolk’s medieval stained glass

Most surviving stained glass features tracery figures. Human beings as well as angels, populate the windows; women appear mainly as Virgins, and other saints, whilst men are prophets, patriarchs, kings and clerics – and both appear as patrons.

Anne Boleyn, wife of Sir John Shelton (relative of Queen Anne Boleyn). Donor, Shelton church c1500-1505.

The most common image of a woman in Norfolk glass is the Virgin Mary, who appears in scenes including the Annunciation, the Assumption and the Coronation of the Virgin, as well as multiple Nativities. There are a few images of Mary Magdalen (Burnham Market, photo) and many more of the myriad virgin saints. The most popular in Norfolk were St Margaret of Antioch, usually portrayed slaying a dragon, St Catherine the Great (with her wheel) and St Barbara (with her tower). Others include St Juliana and St Agatha. There are good examples at Cley, Stratton Strawless, Martham and Salle

The virgin Mary, part of an assumption scene at Bale.

The photos in the carousel below are all of donors and women saints:

Norfolk’s medieval stained glass. What links Martham with Mulbarton?

I have always thought that Norfolk’s medieval stained glass is an underrated legacy of the middle ages. It has a distinctive style and high quality craftsmanship as well as deep rich colours and some superb draftsmanship.

This was brought home when I first visited Martham, St Mary church where there is a superb collection of fifteenth century Norfolk glass, probably made in one of the workshops in Norwich. It has been restored to a greater or lesser extent and reset in the east windows of the north and south aisles. I hope the photo gallery below gives testament to this.

But what links the glass here to the glass in Mulbarton, St Mary Magdalen? It’s Adam and Eve. Eve spinning and fully clothed is portrayed in Martham and Adam delving and fully clothed is in Mulbarton , along with them, both naked with fig leaves on their expulsion from the Garden of  Eden.

Eve, spinning. Martham

 The story goes that a vicar moved from Martham to Mulbarton (about 20 miles) at the beginning of the nineteenth century bringing with him the two Adam and Eve panels from Martham and setting them in the East window at Mulbarton.

Adam digging, Mulbarton
Adam and Eve, Mulbarton

In his notes on Mulbarton, David King (the authority on Norfolk’s medieval glass) detects the work of  William Mudesford, a Dutch immigrant who worked for the main glazing workshop in the city from panels depicting the Passion in St Peter Mancroft (Norwich)

(https://hungatedotorgdotuk.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/stained-glass-trail-5-1.pdf)

Scourging of Christ, St Peter Mancroft
The Entombment, St Peter Mancroft

Apart from this connection, the glass at Martham is (in my opinion) of outstanding quality – many angels including St Michael the archangel weighing souls and a number of saints, including East Anglian favourites, St Edmund (holding the arrow of his martyrdom) and St Margaret of Antioch (spearing the dragon). One of my favourites is Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist in his camel hair. And in the scourging of Christ I wonder if we see the faces of the men of mid fifteenth century Norwich and Norfolk?

One problem with looking at medieval stained glass in situ is that you often can’t get very close to it. When you see whole windows (as in St Peter Mancroft and East Harling, Norfolk’s best known examples) it is hard to see individual panels and easy to be overwhelmed by the effect of the whole, beautiful as that may be. You really need a long lens or a pair of binoculars and the best way to see the glass (apart from being up on a ladder or scaffold or seeing it when it is being repaired in a workshop) is probably through photographs. Even then a protective grill can take away from its beauty. In most of these photos of Martham I have got rid of the exterior protective grill by using Photoshop – a rather tedious process.

There are other issues with looking at medieval stained glass. Much was lost during the iconoclasm of the Reformation both in Edward vi’s reign and the period of the Civil War (1642-1660). A lot of glass simply deteriorated over time and was lost that way. It’s rare to see windows as they were, when they were created which means that interpretation of the glass is often problematic and speculative. As David King says most of the glass we see today in many churches is a “patchwork of miscellaneous fragments.” But the skill and artistry of those that made them shines through.

Further Norfolk stained glass sources:

Stained Glass Tours around Norfolk Churches. David King. Norfolk Society 1974

https://hungate.org.uk/downloads/      a series of trails leading to much of the best of  medieval Norfolk stained glass.

http://www.norfolkstainedglass.org/Norfolk/home.shtm

another excellent site including Victorian and modern examples

http://www.cvma.ac.uk/jsp/locationIndex.do?countyCode=NF

There is much on Norfolk stained glass here including this index and an incomplete guide but exhaustive research by David King.

http://www.therosewindow.com/pilot/intro-england2.htm

The Rose window site by Painton Cowen an exhaustive guide of English and French stained glass. The Norfolk section now includes about 40 churches (largely updated by me)

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/

Simon Knott’s excellent guide to Norfolk churches





Norwich weaving 1750 -1900

Norwich’s Over-the-Water district was once the centre of the weaving industry. Between 1650 and 1750, most weavers’ premises were concentrated there. Right up to the end of the nineteenth century, trade directories named 44 weavers and manufacturers in the Magdalen Street area and there were undoubtedly many more.

In the second half of the sixteenth century Low Country weavers (The Strangers) came to Norwich and revitalized weaving. They introduced what were called the New Draperies. These developed into distinctive worsted textiles in the seventeenth century, known as the Norwich Stuffs. Introducing the drawloom, the Strangers designed colourful and very varied fabrics, with flower patterns, checks and shaded stripes for a middle class market of minor gentry and merchants. Although creating mainly worsted cloth, many used other yarns, including mohair, silk, and linen. Their designs and skills were adapted quickly by local weavers.

A strength of the specialist trade was the ability of the master weavers to diversify fabrics in line with changing tastes. By the end of the seventeenth century, Norwich was the centre for ‘half-silks’ (a mixture of silk and worsted). By 1750 Norwich weavers produced a huge diversity of texture, weave and pattern using worsted yarns of very high quality, dyed in a range of bright colours. These fabrics had a variety of exotic names: tapizadoes, taboretts, camblets and callimancoes. Later, in the nineteenth century, Norwich also became known for mourning fabrics – Norwich crepes and bombazines and renowned at home and abroad, the Norwich shawl.

DSC_2994A page from an order book from the 1760s (photo P.Harley. Courtesy Norwich Museum Service)

Structure of the business:

Historically, Norwich was a city of small and medium-sized businesses, each one an independent, self-financing, family based operation with only a few looms. Typically the owner was a master weaver who would keep an eye on all aspects of manufacture and who would find a buyer for the goods himself. In the 1750s this pattern changed. Capital had accumulated as the trade expanded, especially in exports; firms merged and became larger and fewer.

The manufacturer’s residence was the hub of the operation. It was usually a handsome house with a counting house, packing rooms warehouses and a hot- pressing shop to the rear. In a skilled process, the hot-press was applied to some products to give the cloth a high gloss. The cloth was pressed by a screw press, which compressed cardboard with gum Arabic and the cloth underneath. The smooth glaze was fashionable. This process also concealed flaws in the weaving. Spinning, weaving and dyeing generally took place in people’s homes. The manufacturer could employ as many as 300-400 weavers who were paid piece rates and worked at home. Obviously, this took a lot of organization.

The long, fine, white worsted weaving wool came mainly from Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, with some coming from the Yare valley. For eight months of the year, following the first shearing in March, buyers bought up the wool clip and sent it by packhorse and canal to Boston where it was shipped to Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth.

First it went to the woolcombers who pulled heated iron combs through it to smooth away the tangles, a skilled job, though hot and dirty. The spinners received the combed wool next and carts dropped it off within a rough radius of 20 miles of Norwich. Spinning tended to be part-time and done at home on a distaff and spindle (rather than a wheel which produced a thicker thread).

The only record of the dyeing process is from Sharps London Magazine March 1847: ‘The dye house is at least 150 feet long, under one roof, streams of liquid dye which discharge from the numerous vats are constantly pouring along and in the centre of the floor – woolen yarns, scour in ammonia and soap spun silks toss in boiling water. Loops of yarn hang dripping from dyers pins and are dipt in vats and boilers. The vats are cast iron, 6 and a 1/2 feet deep.’ Think of the stench and river pollution.

Norwich Red’- (first mentioned in 1759 in the obituary of Ben Elder in the Norwich Mercury) became famous. Michael Stark, a Scotsman, living in the city, was a noted chemist who succeeded in producing a very fine scarlet, which dyed both wool and silk the same colour, something that hadn’t been achieved before. Edinburgh manufacturers sent silk to be dyed crimson or red, south to Norwich which became for a time the main supplier of tartans to the Scottish regiments.

DSC_3011aRed damask (described as a ‘sattin’) madder dyed (photo P.Harley. Courtesy Norwich Museum Service)

A weaver then wove the cloth before it was sold on to the merchant. In most cases the weaver was a journeyman who had completed his apprenticeship (usually started at 11 or 12) but could not find the money to set up his own business (or didn’t have the ambition or inclination to set up as a master). For much of the eighteenth century the terms weaver and manufacturer were interchangeable. By the nineteenth century manufacturer seems to apply to the employers of the weavers. The process of setting up the loom for the increasingly complex patterns was of utmost importance and it is probable that in most cases it was done by master weavers.

Manufacturers/employers needed houses or warehouses large enough to store yarn, possibly with a space for a designer. Fringers and sewers could work from home or in a part of the warehouse. Last of all was the hot presser who gave the cloth a stiff glaze.

Exports

The eighteenth century was the ‘golden age’ of Norwich weaving. It brought wealth to many of the master-weavers like the Ives and the Harvey families who built some of the fine houses on Colegate. Jeremiah Ives later moved out of the city to Catton Hall.

The export of ‘Norwich stuffs’ grew rapidly. The cheaper stuffs (which were often glazed by the hot-press) were popular in central and northern Germany and the Baltic in the ‘peasant’ market (what we might think of as folk costume today). In the 1760s the trade expanded to Poland and Russia where callimancoes became popular among Tartar and Siberian tribes. In Italy lighter cloths sold well and there was a growing market in Spain and Portugal, where some were exported to Mexico, the West Indies and the Americas. There were also regular orders from the East India Company for camblets in India and the Far East. Much of the export industry was conducted from London, four days away along the ‘good’ turnpike road.

DSC_3010aStriped calamanco 1760s (photo P.Harley. Courtesy Norwich Museum Service)

In the 1760s some Master weavers wanted to cut out the profits made in London (and also the occasional bottlenecks which affected the industry in Norwich) and they began to contact foreign firms directly. William Taylor, a German scholar, writer and visitor to the city says ‘their travellers penetrated through Europe and their pattern books were exhibited in every principal town from the frozen plains of Moscow to the milder climes of Lisbon, Seville, and Naples…The great fairs of Frankfort, Leipsic (sic), and of Salerno, were thronged with the purchasers of these (Norwich) commodities’. The Masters of Norwich travelled abroad and foreign buyers visited the city. The elegant houses of this increasingly sophisticated class can be seen in Colegate, St Giles, and their beneficence can be seen in the construction of the Octagon Chapel, created from textile riches.

Threats to Norwich Industry:

Foreign wars in 1760s and 70s brought setbacks and an end to growth. In 1762 the Spanish trade was disrupted by war with Spain, and because the London warehouses had stockpiled Norwich stuffs there were cutbacks in production in Norwich, lay-offs and unemployment. The American War of Independence (1775-83) caused a lot of damage to the industry.

At home there was an increasing threat from cotton production in Lancashire, cotton goods being cheaper, readily available and easily washed (unlike the glazed Norwich stuffs).

Another threat was from the West Riding of Yorkshire where a northern worsted trade was rapidly developing (producing coarser and simpler stuffs) exporting from Hull. Towards the end of the century Halifax in particular started copying good quality versions of Norwich’s bombazines, camblets and damasks and tempted some Norwich weavers north to help in their development.

Trade picked up at the end of the American War and huge orders from the East India Company followed. Legend has it that happy weavers flaunted their riches with £5 notes in their hat-bands (reminding me of Ipswich supporters waving £20 notes at Norwich fans after Marcus Evans purchased the club).

The revolutionary wars with France (1793-1815) and the Continental Blockade put an end to trade with Europe. Foreign trade was maintained through exports to Asia and the Far East through the East India Company, which ordered between 16,000 and 24,000 camblets annually between 1800 and 1815. When the East India Company lost its monopoly in 1813, exporters started using the cheaper Yorkshire camblets. Meanwhile the highly specialised Norwich shawl, sold mainly in the home market, helped to alleviate some of the effects of the downturns in trade.

Industrialisation and mechanisation.

Norwich’s distance from the coalfields and all the technical innovation that was going on around them, put the city at a disadvantage. The invention of the throstle, for the mechanical spinning of worsted completely by-passed Norwich, East Anglia and Ireland, which sent a lot of yarn to Norwich. Machine spun yarn was far more consistent in quality than hand spun. After 1819, Norwich manufacturers turned to Yorkshire for yarn and the local spinning industry, employing 20,000 women and girls of the city and surrounding countryside, collapsed within 5 years.

 There was no attempt to manufacture machine spun yarn in the city until 1834 when the Albion Mill (still standing and now converted to apartments) was built on King Street. It was followed by the St James factory at Whitefriars (The Norwich Yarn Company), which had steam power and six floors to rent to producers who supplied their own machinery. But it was already too late.

Norwich also missed out on the development of the power loom after 1825, and the weavers lost the production of many plain worsteds to Yorkshire in the 1820s and 30s. Further developments in mechanisation in the 1840s and 50s were centred on Bradford but were not taken up in Norwich.

DSC_2999aPattern book detail, late eighteenth century (photo P.Harley. Courtesy Norwich Museum Service)

From the 1820s the textile trade in Norwich became increasingly specialised (mainly shawls and bombazines – see below) but even here there was fierce competition from Paisley and abroad. Of 850,000 spindles and 32,600 power looms at work in 1850, Norfolk possessed 19,216 and 428 respectively. Hand weaving could not compete with the cheaper mass-produced products in cotton and wool from Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Reaction of the weavers

The Norwich weavers resisted mechanization. They were a close-knit community and the workers had a well-earned reputation for organized rioting and violence to combat changes that affected their livelihood.

In 1790 (just before the French wars), when trade was booming, wage rates were fixed by agreement with employers and posted up in workplaces. This arrangement remained in force for some years and was firmly insisted on by the Weavers’ Committee, whatever the conditions of trade. When trade took a massive downturn during the French wars, any suggestion that wages should drop during difficult economic times was resisted by strikes and violent threats – another reason for the employers’ reluctance to introduce machinery.

The Norwich industry went through a protracted depression from 1825-37. By the 1830s most commentators reckoned that the average weaver was likely to be out of work for about 3 months a year. There were constant attempts to cut wages in line with severe price falls. 1828-1829 were particularly bad years when two bombazine manufacturers went bust, including the Martineaus. Selective wage reductions were broached and backed by the Court of Guardians. The weavers finally marched on the house of the chairman of the court, broke his windows and pulled down his gate. The 7th Dragoon Guards were called in to suppress the riot. And a wage reduction of 20% was put in place.

In 1830 John Wright, described in the local press as ‘one of the most considerable master manufacturers’ had vitriol thrown in his face as he arrived home. Four years earlier, weavers had attacked his house and destroyed yarn which he was sending to the countryside (for weaving at a cheaper rate). By 1838 Wymondham, a small town, 10 miles from Norwich, had 300 looms operated at cheaper prices than Norwich. There were many other instances of intimidation. Some of the master weavers left the industry – the Gurneys went into banking and the Pattesons into brewing.

The 1838 reports of the Assistant Commissioner on Hand Loom Weavers gives an insight into the sorry state of many hand-loom weavers and the industry as a whole (and not just in East Anglia).  The manufacturers laid the blame for failure to mechanise on the weavers as did the commissioner, Dr Mitchell.

But the weavers very way of life had been challenged by the constant underemployment, declining piece rates and the threat of the power loom. The 1838 report also showed how things were changing. There were fewer looms and more than a quarter were operated by women at cheaper rates. There were still 3398 looms worked in homes and 656 in factories. There were 8 textile factories employing 1,285 people using 151 steam horsepower.

These changes in the weaving industry were exacerbated by wider changes. In Norfolk, the mechanisation of agriculture displaced labour and many workers migrated to the city seeking work at almost any wage. The population of the city rose from 37,000 in 1801 to 68,000 in 1852. Living conditions were dreadful for many workers.

Developments in Norwich weaving in the nineteenth century

Developments in the early nineteenth century kept the industry afloat, in particular the Norwich shawl. Fashionable shawls were very expensive imports from Kashmir, using soft and silky wool from the Tibetan goat. Manufacturers in Norwich tried to make a similar item, only cheaper.

In 1792 Alderman John Harvey of Colegate, with P.J.Knights succeeded in weaving a seamless 12 foot wide shawl on a silk warp called a fillover shawl, because it was embroidered or filled in by women and children. By 1802 it was possible to weave the design on the loom rather than embroider it by hand. Shawls woven on the fillover loom could fetch prices from 12 to 20 guineas with the most complex designs and the finest weaving fetching 50 guineas (a guinea is £1.05p). A weaver, working at home in 1850 might be earning 45p a week, working in summer a sixteen hour day and in winter a fourteen and a half hour day.

A further development was the Jacquard loom (which was far too big for most weavers’ homes). This cut down on labour as it used punched cards instead of the nimble fingers of a draw boy. The first one used in Norwich was probably in 1829 or 1830 by Willett and Nephew.

Some of the shawls had designs printed on them (usually making them cheaper). The ones printed on leno or muslim were worn with light summer dresses. The shawls became renowned worldwide for their superb design, quality and workmanship, and sold for high prices, earning good wages when trade was good.

By the late 1840s and 50s there were at least 28 manufacturers making shawls of different types in the city. The order book of E&F Hinde in 1849 gives some indication of numbers: 26 types of shawl and 39,000 orders for the year. The Arab (either in Low, High or Superior) appears to be a semi-circular shawl with a mock hood and tassel on the straight side.

Shawl production was at its height in the 1850s. In the 1860s and 70s the firm of Clabburn, Son & Crisp created what were considered to be some of the finest of Norwich shawls made entirely of silk. The designs were flowing and have a strong feeling of Art Nouveau. Many shawls were things of beauty which carried off prizes at international exhibitions and had a reputation for quality. However, they were subject to the vagaries of fashion and competition especially from Paisley printed shawls which were cheaper and machine made. By 1870 shawls were no longer in vogue and there were only nine firms making them, in contrast to the thirty- four recorded in the 1790s.

Alongside shawls, other businesses sprang up making crepes and bombazines (for mourning). Bombazine was a silk and worsted mix made in a twill weave to give densely black appearance. Gauzes were made from pure silk. The first was invented by Mr Francis (of Calvert Street) in 1819 and christened Norwich crepe. It was of a silk and wool mix but highly coloured and finished to look like satin. Mourning clothes provided a relatively steady market in contrast to the vagaries of the fashion trade in coloured stuffs.

In 1822 Joseph Grout (first noted 1807, Paterson Yard, Magdalen Street) introduced the modern Norwich crepe (sometimes spelt crape, as in the Norwich Crape Factory established in St Augustine’s by Henry Willet and John Sultzer). Crepe was designed specifically for mourning, and made from twisted silk yarn, woven into a fine gauze, dyed black, stiffened with shellac and embossed with patterns by means of a special and at first secret crimping machine. It was the ‘quintessential expression of Victorian grief’ and made in enormous quantities. Widows were expected to wear full mourning dress for two years and there were various stipulations for family members depending on the relationship to the deceased. Grout’s business developed and  was probably helped by Queen Victoria’s patronage. Thhe Company expanded to works in New Mills, Lower Westwick Street, warehouses in London and production around East Anglia (Great Yarmouth and North Walsham in Norfolk). It was said to be the largest of its kind in the country. He also used steam power in his mills. The Norwich Crape Company closed in the 1920s, finally hit by the decline in mourning ritual.

DSC_3002aGlazed damask from a pattern book

The weaving trade had revived by 1850, but was much reduced from its former glory and by the 1870s shawls went out of fashion. In 1875, The National Mourning Reform Association was set up to campaign for ‘moderation’ and ‘simplicity’ instead of ‘unnecessary show’ in mourning attire. The skills of the Norwich weavers were overtaken by the whims of fashion and mass-production. A mark of the decline is that in 1851 almost 33% of the workforce (both men and women) was employed in the textile trade. By 1901 it was less than 7%. Many weavers had gone into the rapidly developing leather and shoe industry.

Sources:

Norwich in the Nineteenth Century. Editor Christopher Barringer. Gliddon Books, 1984

The Norwich Shawl. Clabburn P. HMSO 1995Norwich, City of Industries. Williams N, Norwich Heart 2013

Museums information sheet. The Norwich Shawl by Pamela Clabburn, 1975

Norwich since 1550. ed Rawcliffe and Wilson (Hambledon and London)

The Fabric of Stuffs. Ursula Priestley. Centre for East Anglian Studies, 1990

Why this research? Firstly my interest in textiles and local history (the research was mainly from the secondary sources mentioned above) and secondly to help inform the script and songs of a forthcoming production by The Common Lot – Anglia Square A Love Story which was performed in July 2019 in the streets of Norwich and Anglia Square – more information on the sites below.

https://thecommonlot.org/  https://angliasquarelovestory.com/

Thanks to Barbara McKeown for ironing out my English and spotting various errors.

Thanks to Ruth Battersby Tooke of the Norwich Museum Service and the Norwich Castle Study Centre study centre for showing me some of the textile collection and allowing me to photograph some of it for this article.

Do visit The Museum of Norwich which has a surviving Jacquard loom, pattern books from the eighteenth century and a skirt made from Norwich cloth. The Castle Museum has Norwich shawls in its Design for Living section.

https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/norwich-castle

https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/museum-of-norwich

https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/norwich-castle/whats-here/norwich-castle-study-centre

The photos in the gallery below were taken by me and are mainly of late eighteenth century textiles and pattern books.

 

 

 

 

More Norfolk medieval wood and stone carving

Most of these photos were taken in the last few months and there is a heavy bias towards the Marshland churches, especially the magnificent Walpole St Peter and Wiggenhall St Mary the Virgin, whose set of bench ends is second to none in Norfolk, although I find the latter’s atmosphere lacking compared to my favourite churches, perhaps because it is no longer used. Some of the carving is crude, some has been damaged by the ravages of time or perhaps the iconoclasm of the Reformation, and some is excellent. Most of all these photos provide an insight to the medieval world and imagination.

Punk in the East – 40 years.

 

Norwich is celebrating 40 years of punk in the east with various events around the city, including a trail with photos and memorabilia and a series of gigs. More information here: http://www.punkintheeast.co.uk/ and full credit to Jonty, who with the help of a few has helped to put it all together.
My own small contribution is these photos, taken between 1979 & 1984, some of which can be seen at Frank’s bar and The Museum of Norwich over the next month or two. You can buy the fanzine Young Offenders: Punk in Norwich 1976-1984 at the Bookhive and follow the trail in The Lanes.
If you want to buy any of these photos please contact me at paul_harley @hotmail.com

Exhibition at St Peter Hungate church, Norwich – September 3rd – October 30th 2016 (open Saturdays 10-4, Sundays 2-4)

I have enjoyed Norfolk churches for years, often stumbling on them on bike rides. Many sit lonely in fields, their villages having moved their focus over the centuries. Some are simple and humble, a few are grand and spectacular, but many reveal secrets forgotten or barely known except to a few experts, or individuals who help maintain them and keep them open.

This exhibition has given me the chance to combine two of my passions – photography and churches. The county has 659 medieval churches with a wealth of history on offer. My focus here is mainly on some of the medieval wood and stone carving, most of it 500 years old or more. I have chosen to represent this work in black and white. It enhances the detail and texture in a graphic and often atmospheric way, revealing the skill and imagination of anonymous craftsmen who present their world to us. There are mythical beasts, green men, wodehouses, animals and the faces of the people themselves – frozen in time, like photographs. Sometimes the carving is highly skilled; sometimes it is crude, basic and yet oddly powerful.

I have included a few colour photos – it’s hard to imagine stained glass without colour – but there was no space for the many rood screens or wall paintings and more general shots of interiors and exteriors. It was hard to make a choice. It was often difficult to take some of the photos in natural light. But just as photography ‘freezes a moment in time’, the carving and stonemasonry of the medieval period are also frozen moments from long ago.

All of these photos are of objects that predate the Reformation. They survived the extraordinary iconoclasm of the reign of Edward VI (1547-53), when stained glass was smashed, wall paintings were whitewashed, rood screens had their faces scratched out, pew ends were vandalised and images were stripped. It is surprising that so much survived.

One of the joys of visiting a church is seeing up to a thousand years of history in one building. There are additions made to churches through the centuries – round towers, perhaps topped centuries later by an octagon, Norman arches, different styles of window, medieval tombs, eighteenth century knights portrayed as Roman senators, Victorian stained glass, twenty first century furniture. Some have children’s play areas, and books for sale and remain centres of the community. More often than not these buildings are open. Some now have a kettle and coffee or tea bags and invite you sit down and drink and reflect. Others may be reached along a track in a field and yet are free and open for what may only be a rare and solitary visitor. Some churches are locked, but usually there is a number to call and that often leads to an interesting conversation with the key holder. Long may these churches, which are both examples of ancient folk art and still places of worship, remain so welcoming.

I have not visited them in any systematic way and can only admire the single mindedness and love shown by my guides to the churches I have visited: Simon Knott’s excellent Norfolk churches website: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/mainpage.htm with his huge knowledge and finely written personal accounts and Mortlock and Roberts with their detailed, unembellished and thorough outlines. My thanks too to all the people, who have kept these buildings open.

Most of these photos will be in an exhibition at St Peter Hungate Museum of Medieval Art (http://www.hungate.org.uk/). The exhibition will 0pen September 3rd 2016 and end October 30th. The museum is open on Saturdays from 10-4 and Sundays 2-4. all the prints will be for sale. I will post details of the prices nearer the time.

Norfolk Churches

I have enjoyed visiting Norfolk churches for years, often stumbling on them on bike rides. Many sit lonely in fields, their villages having moved their focus over the centuries. Some are simple and humble, a few are grand and spectacular, but many reveal secrets forgotten or barely known except to a few experts, or individuals who help maintain them and keep them open. The atmosphere inside is usually very calm and peaceful. These photos are not an attempt to systematically chronicle their greatest treasures, but aim to give a feeling of their atmosphere, of the skill of local craftsmen, and highlight parts in them that I have found interesting.