All Saints Church, with its wonderful round tower, founded before 1185, with an aisle, chancel and porch, was the other mislaid church of January 2017. Set in the village of Gresham, in a very rural location, you feel like you have stepped back in time. We were visiting on a Sunday and as I walked up the path, the door open and people spilled out of the opening. It was lovely to see so many of the congregation, it had been a long time since I had seen a church so full. One of the church wardens came over to welcome me, and on seeing my camera, decided to show me all the treasures of the church.
There are not that many treasures and in fact, I’m not such that have have been in such a plain church before. The reason for the plainest of the interior is due to a Lt Col Batt who held the living in the 1940’s. Batt was a fierce Protestant and wanted all trace of ornamentation and ‘Papish’ decoration removed from the church. The vicar, however, was an ardent Anglo-Catholic and refused. Batt took his complaint to a consistory court and won. As a result, the walls were whitewashed and every vestige of ornamentation removed or covered up. The case became famous, but it was one of the last of its kind.
It’s a sad tale, as the locals think that Batt became unhinged by the deaths of his three younger sons and took it out on the church, one of the locals remembers, that he even tried to have the font boarded up because of the figures on it. Which brings us to the real treasure of the church.
All Saints has one of the finest ‘Seven Sacrament’ fonts in Norfolk. These octagonal fonts are prevalent in Norfolk, and Gresham boasts one of the best examples. The church warden, my guide, told me the panels on the font, during the Reformation, were filled in with sand, to make it look like a plain font. The reason, as we see on some similar fonts, the figures were defaced, but in this case the sand worked and the panels are almost as perfect as they day they were carved.
Scenes represented on the font, include a baptism, a holy eucharist, and parishioners clustering around a neighbour’s deathbed.
I didn’t take as many photos as I would have, if I been on my own, mainly as its little difficult if someone is talking to you, it always seems a little rude. But I did get all the panels on the font, and there is pew with some writing on the end, but no one can work out what it means. The hole in the stone, is an ancient sun dial for telling the time, a bit before my mobile phone. It was nice to have some company, normally I am on my own, and this is a much loved church, which is wonderful.