This morning whilst sipping my morning tea and flicking through a back issue of Country Life (17 October 2012) I noticed a single page in a series devoted to things to see in country churches. My eye was caught by the name Terrington Saint Clement and the amazing 17th century painted font cover. I recognised the name of this village and, checking my road atlas, found it lay very close to my route to Norwich; just in Norfolk and west of Kings Lynn. As I just happened to be driving down to Norwich this morning I decided this would be just the spot to have my picnic lunch and take a look at the church and the stunning font cover.
It was a beautiful day for the drive and after my quick picnic lunch I headed for the church door. Like many churches it’s kept locked but the notice on the door told me to call at the house next door to collect the key. So I did.
The Church Door Key
Once inside I could see what Simon Jenkins meant when he said “This church is a hymn to light”.
The font is indeed impressive. The triptych was closed but I gently lifted the latch and the whole opened up to display the 17th century paintings of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the baptism of Christ by Saint John The Baptist. The Gothic font cover, painted blue, rises up almost to the church rafters.
The font cover
The open triptych
Interestingly, the tower is not attached to the church itself. Jenkins suggests that this was probably due to the soft soil of this marshland region.
“The tower came into its own during a flood in 1670 when the community gathered there and were fed by boat from King’s Lynn” This could easily have happened again this week since I noticed that many of the fields around Terrington and in the Fens were looking pretty wet, to say the least.
What an amazing “find”. Any idea of why the font has such a lavish cover?
I wondered that myself, Fran, but haven’t discovered yet.
There is a detached bell tower at the parish church in Ledbury, Herefordshire, where my mother lives. Apparently they are quite rare, but there are quite a few of them in that area, and no-one seems to know why they were built. There doesn’t seem to be much information about them – I wonder if the one at Terrington St Clement was built at the same time?
I haven’t found a date yet either, Christine. I imagine the Herefordshire reason would different from the Fens one. I know I have come across this feature before but I can’t remember where.
Fantastic & well worth a visit! I love Norfolk churches. There is a detached bell tower at St Augustine’s, Brooklands on Romney Marsh – almost certainly because of the danger of subsidence. Romney Marsh churches have a magic all their own too.
As you know, Nilly, Kent has long been on my list for future visits. There’s definitely *something* about Norfolk churches.
Looking back at The Country Life article I see that it says “The paintings were probably commissioned in the 1630s as part of wider improvements to the church by the Laudian rector Richard Hunt. Before the Civil War, the Laudian emphasis on ritual encouraged the widespread creation and reordering of font covers.”
Expert opinion is that the paintings within the font cover are 15th cent. Flemish.
The local wealth and close ties with the low countries due to the wool trade. makes this a viable propability. Inspection of the lettering, rather indicates that they were originally flat panels and could well have been part of a chapel reredos or even a Chancel screen. which was removed during the reformation . The classic style of the door section would make it likely that these were added to cover in the early 17th cent when the Church received a major refurbishment which included the Queen Anne coat of Arms, and the Lords Prayer and Creed Boards dated 1635 which still remain in the church.
It is interesting to note that there are seven consecration crosses visible: Indicating that the Church was enlarged and rebuilt in three stages.
Thank you, Ed, for adding some more detail. It’s very much appreciated.
Paintings not C15 Flemish but based on prints dated c1575.
Thank you, Anthony. I presume you are correcting Ed. Dowty’s comment above.
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