All Saints, North Barsham

This church enjoys a perfect setting on a small rise with moderate hills all around, giving lovely views of the valley of the river Stiffkey.

Like East Barsham this church is but a shadow of the original. The tower and porch have gone. The nave and chancel have both been shortened: however what remains are basically 13th century and make a pleasant little country church.

The present west wall was built after the fall of the tower, which must have demolished the west end of the nave when it fell. The original doorway was reset and also a very attractive niche above it, which has a 14th century ogee arch. Notice the ribbed vaulting inside the niche, a base for the former statue and two shields above; but it was reconstructed with no space between the base and the vaulting for a statue.

The West wall also contains many pieces of cut stone reset amongst the flints. These came from the former tower and porch. Two faces from gargoyles can be found above the door. Mullion stones from a window, or windows, and there could have been parts of the tower arch. These include the remains of another south nave window and a porch.

In times of drought it is possible to see the outline of the former porch, which indicates that the church was much longer than one would expect.

The bellcote took a small bell, weighing about 56lb, and dated 1766, which was possibly the date of the rebuilding of this west wall. The bell was recast in 1895, but fell to the ground on Easter Day, 1975, while being chimed for the service, and has since been restored.

Both nave south windows are 13th century, Early English period. One has Y tracery and the other has three stepped lancets under a single arch with a hood mould over it. They have a relieving arch above the window containing a few bricks, and you can detect part of a third window arch at the west end.

The stair turret to the former rood loft comes where the nave joins the chancel and is built in conjunction with a buttress.  The wall here is continuous with the nave, which confirms the early date of this building. The eaves fascia or frieze is nicely decorated with various flowers and shields.

The chancel has a 3-light square headed window of the 14th century with cusped arches to tracery. The mullions are constructed of brick. The buttresses are decorated with square knapped flints.

The east window is three lancets under a single arch and looks original although it must have been rebuilt in 1627 when the chancel was shortened by 2 or 3 yards. By careful study of the top of this window you will see that the stones belong to a four light window and have been rebuilt to give only three lights. The Rector wrote in his tithe book at that time a full account of how the Lord Bishop of Norwich stayed in the Rectory here when on his way from Walsingham to Lynn, and how he gave verbal permission before many witnesses for the Rector to shorten the chancel.

The north side of the nave has a 15°' century perpendicular window and another Y tracery window.

Inside the Church

The nave has a modem trussed rafter roof, well constructed and adequate. The chancel roof was rebuilt in 1897 to restore it to its formed high-pitched line, and it has an interior wagon roof of Spanish chestnut.

The chancel arch is late 13th century and some of its medieval painting survives on the under side of the arch. The rood loft stairs were opened up during Victorian restoration work. An original hinge for the lower door survives and you will see the place for a massive bolt.

Under the altar are the ledger slabs of two rectors with the same name. The Reverend Joshua Thompson, d. 1722, aged 65, and the Reverend Joshua Thompson his son who died in 1762, aged 68. In the nave will be found the grave of Anne Thompson, wife of the 2nd Joshua. Her parents were Ursula and William Rootley as will be read on the enormous floor slab by the door; William Rootley was the patron at the time.

For February 13th, 1635, the old tithe book has this entry: "the newe pulpitt was made and sett uppe by Broadhead of Creake". This Jacobean pulpit was one of several improvements to the church paid for by the parish during the 10 years that followed the Bishop's visit. The base of the pulpit is much more recent, and it will be noticed that Broadhead would not have been allowed to put the pulpit so that it obscures the wall tablet of the patron of that time as it does now.

The wall tablet behind the pulpit is to Phillip Russel, who "having spunne out ye thred of time in ye dimension 66 years, whereof ye last 36 ran smoothly over in ye bond of marriage with Katherine, ye daughter of John Valpoole of Houghton, died Decr.26, 1617". This is an early date for such a memorial and it features an abundance of symbolic emblems: there is a crowned skull (cf. East Barsham), crossed bones with flames above, and an hourglass in a stand constructed of bones. Around the border are apples, pikes and helmets.

The font is noteworthy because it has a six-sided bowl instead of the usual eight sides. It is decorated with blank arches typical of the 13th century

The stained glass in the nave north-east window is a collection of fragments surviving from the medieval glazing.

North Barsham has suffered from a decline in the population over several centuries, but still it remains as a place with a great and detailed history, where the church survives as the dominant feature. Among its treasures is the Tithe Book started by the Rev. Joseph Lawson in 1614, in which he recorded all kinds of events and prices and achievements.

Subsequent rectors kept adding to this book, until there was a detailed record of this place over nearly 150 years.   For instance we learn how he planted ash trees, which were cut 110 years later to prepare for a major repair of the rectory.   Improvements were made to the church during the period of the 1630s and again in 1740s, but there was little change between. Selling the old bell in 1741 paid for quite extensive repairs to the church, which had by then suffered serious decay.

The East window contains an excellent stained glass panel of the Crucifixion in memory of Canon Reggie Wylam and his wife Fiona who retired to North Barsham Old Rectory in the 1970's and largely refurbished the church.

Please click here to download 'Friends of the Barsham Churches' Appeal Leaflet'


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