Watlington, Norfolk – St Peter and St Paul

We are staying in Norfolk, and on Tuesday 18 September decided to go for a drive and discover a few churches. Julie is leading a book group on Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Taylors in a couple of weeks, so trying to find Fenchurch St Paul seemed a good idea. We headed west into the Fens. Still in Norfolk, but in Ely Diocese.

St Peter and St Paul church at Watlington is at TF 621111, and it was open. The benefice has a website,  but there is a more informative page here. If you want to know about the building itself, look at Simon’s wonderful website, and the County’s Heritage website.

Apparently Watlington is a Norse name, meaning lying by water and wet soil (which sums up most of the Fens!). The village first appears in records dated 1166, and this church is C13. There was an earlier church, and the base of the tower may date from this building. The nave was rebuilt with hours, the windows were added. In the C15 the roof was raised, and there was a Victorian restoration. There is a mega wheelchair ramp.

They have a C15 font with the apostles (now headless – I wonder what most of the village thought when this damage was done), and a font cover (with pelican) dating to 1620. (Norfolk heritage says it could be a swan, pelican seems more likely. Swans may glide down Fenland streams, but Pelicans are symbolic in religious art – if you wonder why, read here. Some lovely art from the school as well.

Apparently the bench ends, which are mainly medieval but with some Victorian additions, include all the seven deadly sins. I think I missed hypocrisy, where a woman stoops, as if praying the rosary, but she is in fact asleep, her head in her hand. Avarice is a man counting his money – is he my second photo? Anger is the man with a sword. The beasts are fantastical too. Colourful kneelers are also worth noticing.

Some colourful hatchments, but I didn’t get decent photos of other memorials.

Simon (norfolkchurches) gets poetic: “The east window is full of late Victorian confidence. Now, in the deepening afternoon, it faded before our eyes as the sun sank westwards. It was easy to imagine schoolchildren quietly gathered for evensong here, the shadows stretching out as the sad Anglican collects were intoned, the evening hymns brooding in the thinning light.”

Now they are in vacancy. Just one service a Sunday across the four churches of the Benefice, and Evensong is a thing of the past. One day Society might realise what it has lost.


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