Churches

All Saints

Shipdham is a fairly large, pleasant village on the road between Dereham and Watton, almost exactly in the middle of Norfolk. The road cuts down around the graveyard, which is cordoned by a high wall, but peering high above all is one of the most singular church crownings in Norfolk. The late medieval tower is surmounted by a great wood and lead fleche, pointing to heaven. It is almost eastern in character, as if borrowed from a Russian orthodox church. I’ve read various conflicting dates for it, but I wondered if it might be a confection from the early 17th century, possibly to replace a spire that had fallen.

 

This is not a huge church, but it is certainly an imposing one, with a great presence. The massive south porch reaches to the roof of the aisle, and as there is no clerestory on this side it seems even larger. Such a handsome church would not look out of place in a prosperous market town. The interior is essentially a 19th century church within the shell of a medieval one, but it is not without its interesting early survivals.

 

The most unusual feature here is now mounted on the west wall of the nave, above the organ. This is the great tympanum painted with the royal arms of Charles I. They have been updated to the other side of the Commonwealth for Charles II. Until the 19th century restoration, it fitted neatly into the top of the chancel arch, and the panelling may be older, possibly originally painted with the arms of Elizabeth I, or even from the pre-Reformation rood. The arms are interesting rather than beautiful, but both those adjectives can easily be applied to the decalogue boards which once fitted beneath it. These are now mounted on the wall of the north aisle, and can be examined at close quarters. The date, 1630, reveals the original date of the arms. The corbel heads which support the boards are older, but they are also not in situ.

 

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Church Enhancement Project

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