Norwich, Norfolk – St George Colegate

St George Colegate TG 229090 has a nice sign outside saying the church is open, but they need to do something about the vestibule, it hardly says “this church is worth visiting.” I did like the poster for the Lent Group where they are discussing “What we (try to) believe”. My sort of church. They have a very nice little leaflet which explains what happens in a morning service, and whereabouts in the church it happens – might do something similar. (This is the pillar they sit behind so they can’t see anything. These are the pews at the back of the Nave, which they sit in first).

The church itself was built between 1460 and 1510, but all the fitting are Georgian, the Victorians didn’t get to this church. The west gallery is supported by wooden Tuscan columns, and the organ (which dates to 1802) is in its original position. It was built by George Pike England, son of a very famous London organ builder George England. It was inaugurated at Easter 1802 with a performance of Handel’s Messiah. The original part is in good order, and a second manual and full pedalboard was added later. It was originally surmounted by this figure of Fame, which is now on the south porch. One of the organists who played here as a child, apparently sitting on his mother’s knee, was William Crotch (1775-1847) – generations of choristers have enjoyed his responses (and his name). At the age of 3 he was taken to London, and in 1779 J.C. Bach arranged for him to play for the King. He went on to be Professor of Music at Oxford and the first Principal of the Royal College of Music.

The wonderful leaflet “St George Colegate and the Georgian Connections” tells me nothing about the font itself, but does tell me that Luke Hansard (1752-1828) was baptised here – as in Hansard’s record of the British parliament.

There is a lovely selection of memorials and no doubt there could be wonderful research done on all of them.

Timothy Balderston (1682-1764) was Mayor between 1736 and 1764. His wealth came through the weaving trade. The memorial describes him as “an honest man, a steady friend, a worthy magistrate and a good Christian.” John Herring (1749-1810) and his wife Rebecca lived at 4 Colegate. He was Sheriff in 1786 and Mayor in 1799.

John Crome (1786-1821) was the son of a journeyman and pub landlord. At the age of 13 he was working as errand boy for Dr Edward Rigby. He spotted his potential as an artist, and introduced him to some significant people. In 1783 he was apprenticed to Francis Whistler, a sign, coach and house painter in Bethel Street. He often sat and painted on Mousehold Heath, and started taking his own commissions on 1790. In 1803, with other artists, he founded the Norwich School of Art. He was churchwarden here, and founded the Dirty Shirt Club, a discussion group to which members could come after work (hence the clothing). They still call their discussion group by that name.

They had the War Memorial nicely organised too.

They have some memorials from the various Mayors who have worshipped here, including a recent one. I like the eagle and a very Georgian altar.

Outside the church is a water conduit, and the whole area is worth an explore. I thought I knew Norwich quite well, but realised that I don’t.

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