Thursday, 17 October 2019

Two Norfolk Architectural Gems


Horsey Windpump stands proudly within it's broadland water landscape, fully restored and complete with a new white cap and sails. 
It's purpose was to pump water from the dykes, which intersect and drain the land, into the higher level system of the broads and tidal waterways.
Over 200 years ago Horsey was a very different place to the one seen today. It was effectively still an island surrounded by marshes with just one road in and out, and a small village that was often flooded for most of the year.
The vicar of the village reported that he nearly drowned on three occasions whilst travelling to church to give his sermon! 
The name Horsey means 'Horse Island" and it is believed that Horsey was originally a stud or grazing area for horses. Mortality was high with insects carrying Fen Plague, also known as Marsh Malaria, and with only seven cottages and a small farm house, Horsey was not somewhere people wanted to live.
Horsey today has significantly changed having grown in size and become a tourist destination. It's Broadland landscape is known for the wildlife that inhabits this corner of Norfolk including Marsh Harriers, Swallowtail butterflies, Bitterns, and Kingfishers.
With the land drained and a proper access road built, many visitors flock to the area each year. The Norfolk Broads are now an attractive destination, a far cry from 200 years ago. 

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Most English churches have square towers, but there are a number of round ones, which are to be found mainly in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridge. Many of these round towers date back to the Anglo-Saxon period, two hundred years before the Norman invasion in 1066. 
The question is - why are they round?
It is thought that the main reason was the lack of a suitable local building material. Square towers require strong stone which is cut and dressed into blocks at each of the corners. There is an absence of stone to be found in East Anglia and to transport stone from another area of the country would have been too expensive especially for small country parishes. The only local stone was flint which is a small, knobbly stone, and although it creates strong walls when set in mortar, it is not suitable for tower corners. Hence they built round towers. Flints were easily found in the soil following ploughing the fields, or pits were dug to extract them. Churches near the sea were built from round flints found on the beaches. Towards the end of the round tower building period some flints were 'knapped' meaning that the flints were cut in two so that their interior glass like face would look more attractive when it was set into the wall. Thatched roofs are also a common church roof feature in East Anglia. They are normally thatched using the local Norfolk reeds which remain good for at least 60 years.
St. Margaret's in Hales, Norfolk with its round tower and thatched roof feels like a step back in time. Standing in an isolated setting, within an overgrown graveyard meadow, it's as if this church is still rooted in the Norman world. 
St. Margaret's is a redundant church now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust who protect historic churches.
A lovely Norman entrance with a feast of ziz-zag mouldings combined with star shapes, wheel patterns, and a ram's head topping one of the capitals. 
The interior of the church is simple and rustic with a Norman apse, making it the most intact pre-Gothic church to be found in Norfolk.  

The apse from outside
Faded medieval faces painted on the walls peer out as they have done for hundreds of years creating it's unique aura of antiquity and tranquility.
A much diminished image of St.Christopher carrying Christ.
A skull and cross bone, memento mori, set into the floor - a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.

37 comments:

  1. Stunning photos! You really know how to bring history to life. We visited a number of round towered churches the last time we holidayed in Norfolk. The fact that they're pretty much 1000 years old is mind boggling. Best, Jane x

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    1. There seem to be more churches in Norfolk than any other area of the country. But maybe because the land is so flat, and you can see a great distance, they are more readily spotted.

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  2. Those boots for the harmonium player look good quality.

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    1. They were only suitable for a pair of tiny, narrow feet.

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  3. Splendid photographs of both buildings and interesting historical information. I'm sure you're right about the round towers - almost every local variation in architecture was the result of the building materials to hand. What is interesting to consider is why on earth square and rectangular buildings ever caught on; round buildings are stronger, need less walling material and are warmer inside. We knew all that when we lived in roundhouses but somewhere along the line we forgot - I blame those Romans! That's a very lovely old church, I just wish the CCT would spend a few pounds on soft furnishings to bring life and colour to their churches.

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    1. I would quite like to live in a round building myself. I imagine that living in the round would be very cosy. The only problem would be the furniture.

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  4. What a great commentary and beautiful photos of each of these buildings. So glad you shared so I could see them early on my Thursday morning!

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    1. Thank you Barbara, glad that it enjoyed seeing the photos this morning, and I hope that you enjoy the rest if the day too.

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  5. I love learning about these places and all the building details which are so interesting. It is a beautiful church. Do they still have services there? It seems very small. You would think so many people would want to attend too.

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    1. The village that it served was a good walk away and very small. I don't imagine that any services are held at St. Margret's anymore. There are so many ancient churches in this country; in Norfolk alone, which is a very rural county, there are 28 ancient redundant churches.

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  6. Masonry and stonework fascinate me, so I love this post! What an incredible windmill and church! How many thousands of little stones are in that tower!

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    1. Thanks Debra - by the way a windpump is slightly different to a windmill - at windmill has large granite stones within that turn with the sails which in turn crush cereals such as wheat and corn.

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  7. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a bleak outlook to life, or even better said, for survival in that marsh area two hundred years ago.
    Horsey Windpump is a very special building and makes for a great sky-line view.
    St. Margaret's in Hales, Norfolk is a spectacular remainder of a pre-Gothic Church. Not only the tower is round but the semi circular apse got build like that for the very same reason of course. Once can only stand there and admire the people from that era, creating something so beautiful with little means and even less tools for simplifying the job.
    Thanks for bringing this to your readers!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariettte - I suspect that the locals 200 years ago simply accepted their lot and just got on with their life as best they could.
      I agree with you that their achievements were really admirable.

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  8. The church and windpump are both impressive.

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  9. I have sometimes thought of the church in Hales, which we discovered quite by accident on a cycling trip through Norfolk. It was good to have your photographs to help me recall it. I don't remember the harmonium and boots though, which is not to say they were not there.

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    1. It is nice to know that you too have been to this little church - once seen never forgotten. The boots, I imagine, are someones idea of a bit of fun.

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  10. Hello Rosemary, All those amazing textures! Scrolling through this post is like watching a film by Jan Svankmajer!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - if you admire his work than I am flattered - I don't know his work but will make a point of looking him up.

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  11. How interesting to learn about why some towers are round. I had no idea. The church in Hales has so many beautiful details.

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    1. The Norman Cathedral of Norwich in that area was built using stone which was brought over from Caen in France, but the small Fenland villages parishes made do with the local flint.

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  12. Horsey Windpump is a sweet name for that beautiful windmill. I have always been intrigued by the Fens and Norfolk, and would love to see it. Your photos do bring it to life. It is very interesting to learn about the round towers, and the reasons they were built that way. The Norman interior is so elegant and restrained, and I find it very appealing indeed. As for the little harmonium, what memories it brings of when I began playing one of those in church as a 12 year old. Taught music by nuns, we had to be a bit precocious!

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    1. I don't know the area too well myself Patricia but will return again as there is much more to see.
      If you were to fly over the Fens then you would see a huge network of dykes and rivers meandering through islands of reeds and sedge grasses looking rather like a jigsaw puzzle that has yet to be put together.
      I was very interested to learn that you once played the harmonium, I do remember a post that you did not too long ago where you returned to your old convent school.

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  13. Funny to see the windmill, it looks almost simular to the Dutch ones.

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    1. There are lots of windmills in Norfolk, but the landscape here is very similar to that in your country. However, this one is actually a windpump rather than a mill for grinding cereals.

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  14. Oh my goodness, I LOVE that church! Every single detail! And you capture them so beautifully on your camera! I Love the close-up looks at the stone work and the beautiful faded paintings on the interior. So many churches painted all their walls white when the Reformation happened... so much beauty was covered and forgotten. Thank you again for sharing your fascinating peregrinations!

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    1. I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing this little gem of a church - thank you for your kind comment. Peregrinations, by the way, is a great word.

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  15. The windmill is exquisite. It is remarkable how those old structures became a kind of organic feature of the landscape, and blended in with the surrounding countryside, whereas huge modern wind turbines are an affront to everyone's sensibilities. We need clean energy and perhaps this is the price we have to pay, but those turbines are surely ugly.

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    1. Yes I agree with you that these windpumps and windmills sit very happily within their landscape whereas modern day wind turbine contraptions do not.

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  16. I have never seen a round steeple. Very interesting,.Love the windmill with the sailboat shot.

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    1. It's a little gem of a church, and thank you for your comment re: the sailboat.

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  17. Very interesting and lovely photos as always. I don't know Norfolk at all.

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    1. I don't know it terribly well myself, but intend to return and discover more of the area.

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  18. Always interesting to see your new posts of different areas in England , so much history, and you are an awesome story teller !

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    1. You are very kind with your comments Jane.

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