This small and compact church is full of character and interest. Flint quoins at either end of the north wall suggest that the short nave may be late eleventh century. The west tower is an addition of the later thirteenth century, as is the south aisle with its fine arcade and angle piscina. The fifteenth-century south clerestory was built along with the handsome roof whose construction required the raising the windowless north wall.
The roof is arch-braced with wall posts dividing a quatrefoil frieze along the wallplate. The quatrefoils of the south frieze were reinstated as part of the extensive repairs undertaken by the Trust, with generous grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in 2016. This campaign of work transformed the condition of the building and underpinned its long-term future. The fragmentary wall painting of St Christopher with traces of fish and donor figures at the foot is all that remains of what would have been a complex scheme probably covering much of the blank north wall. The tantalising fragments were uncovered during repairs in 1990 along with a piece of the black and white post-Reformation painted texts that would have obliterated the medieval programme. All that remains of the medieval glass is a lovely figure of an angel playing a rebeck in the west window of the tower.
There are oak benches of the fifteenth century with poppy heads (one of them altered in 1649 and decorated with carefully carved initials of that period) and the font is good fifteenth-century work with shields bearing the Instruments of the Passion and the Symbols of the Apostles. Two notable admirals, Sir John Narborough (c.1640-1688) and Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650-1707) were baptized here. Shovell died in a shipwreck on the Scilly Isles as the result of a navigational error of a kind not uncommon in the days before it was possible to calculate longitude accurately.
In the south aisle are two fine monuments; one a large tomb chest and the other an alabaster and mid-seventeenth-century marble wall monument to Sir James Calthorpe (died 1615) and his wife Barbara, daughter of Sir John Bacon of Hesset who, according to the inscription, died in 1639 having seen 193 of her descendants. The tomb chest presents an interesting dating problem. Its framed panels are not typically medieval in their proportions and the gothic tracery is rather plainly detailed, factors which have led to the suggestion that it could be an example of late-sixteenth-century ‘gothic survival’. Blomefield ascribed the monument to Sir James Calthorpe who died in 1589.
We are delighted that repairs to the nave, chancel and porch roofs, made possible by the HLF GPOW grant have been completed in May 2017.
All Saints, postcode NR23 1QS, is open during daylight hours, and a new guide book has been produced and is available in the church, or through the Norfolk Churches Trust office. You can also download a copy here. The Keyholder can be contacted on 01328 830202.