Sometimes when you walk up the path to a church, you just know by the look of the building you are in for a treat….well that’s if you are into church buildings, if not just enjoy it for what it is….. St Andrew’s Church, Great Dunham in Norfolk, is an almost entirely Saxon Church, in fact there are more Saxon survivals in this one church then most likely any another church you could visit. There is a notice of ‘Welcome’ when you enter, and yes it was open, most churches in Norfolk have an open door policy, not all, but a great many do. When you read the notes, you realise that you are standing in a building that has stood there for nearly a 1000 years.
As you walk down the nave, passing the blank arcades and stand in the space beneath the three storey tower, with its massive Saxon arches you know you have gone back centuries. This is a small country church, but just look at the size of the arches. The chancel beyond was not built until the 15th century, when the porch was added at the same time. The chancel was also virtually rebuilt in the 19th century.
Unfortunately the medieval window, which is normally a thing of beauty, which it still is, but in this case has destroyed one of the most amazing sets of blank arcades in East Anglia. When you look at the Saxon arches beneath the tower, and then look at the medieval window, it just looks so wrong. But in the 15th century changes took place and they wanted churches full of light, benches were added to the nave, pulpits and rood screens came about for the Priest to have a hierarchical presence among the people. I found a plan of what the arcades would have looked like, before a 13th century restoration, luckily they didn’t go mad and destroy it before the 15th century added window.
The present church, surrounded by its lime trees, is the surviour of two churches, the other was St Mary, which vanished. St Mary, was a large Norman church which stood in the grounds of the Old Rectory, fifty yards from St Andrew. This Norman church had a separate rector until 1437, and was still standing in 1500, but close before 1550, nothing of the building survives. Although some fragments of the building were found in flower beds, and have since been taken to St Andrew, you can see small pieces of stonework in the church, as the photos below show. At the time it would seem that a lot of the stonework was removed to build two farms. I have no idea why St Mary became disused, maybe the congreation became smaller, and money ran out for the up keep of such a large Norman church. Although in a way, it might have been the saving of a small Saxon Church……
St Andrew’s churchyard is full of wonderful ‘angel head’ grave stones, I must admit I got carried away and photographed as many as I could. This little church was a joy to visit and is another one that I forgot to post about, we visited on the 30th January 2016……..I think I have few more to post from 2016, it must have been a good year for church visiting 🙂