Acle, Norfolk – St Edmund

We are having a few days in Norfolk to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Friends Rob and Anne drove up for the day and we walked down into the village. The girls took up residence in the tea room while the boys went and explored St Edmund’s church – TG 641203. There is a website at https://www.abychurches.co.uk/ – Acle and Bure to Yare benefice, lots of churches to visit. It is also worth mentioning Simon Knott’s site – http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/acle/acle.htm 

The church is on the corner in the middle of the village. Nice view from the south side, and a welcoming notice – but easiest access was through the North Porch. In the C12 there would have been a rectangular Norman nave and a round west tower, then the octagonal section was added in the C13. In the C14 the chancel was added, then the Norman nave was demolished and the present wider, higher nave constructed. The southern porch is C15, the north porch was added sometime later. We know that the tower battlements were added in 1472, a reeve called Robert Reynes records his father and two others adding them for £16. The figures at the top have been replaced over time – one of them is Edmund.

The roof will need re-thatching soon – a problem St Edmund’s Allestree hasn’t got. I didn’t photo the South Porch. In his will of 1487 Robert Bataly requested burial by the north door of the church and left 20 marks (£13) for construction of the porch. Apparently there is an image of them in the porch which I missed. It was also worth looking down – rather a nice memorial.

The church doesn’t look particularly stunning when you walk in, but it’s worth an explore. A small tapestry, and you can only be the organist if you are thin and agile. Two War memorials are rather special.

There is a rather nice Nativity Window on the north side – it dates from 1939, so the light in the darkness might have seemed particularly appropriate.

The East Window is a lovely Victorian Ascension window. It was given in memory of W.R. Last who died in 1867. I love the garden, the city and the angels. The saints on the riddle posts behind the altar are Edmund and George – I photoed Edmund. Another Edmund picture too.

The rood screen is C15. The original colour and gilt decoration, including the monogram of St Edmund, was painted over at the Reformation, and recovered in 1912. The rood itself is 1939 addition – interesting adding the image of the crucifixion as the world descended into War. The eagle is 1889 and the nave altar is possibly Stuart.

In the chancel is a charcoal inscription on the medieval plaster of the north wall. It dates from the time of the Black Death in 1549, and was discovered in 1912. The inscription is undated, but the accepted translation is:

“O lamentable Death, how many dost thou cast into the pit, Anon the infants fade away, and of the aged death makes an end. Now these, now those thou ravagest, O Death on every side, These that wear horn [headdresses] or veils, fate spareth not, Therefore while in the world the brute beast plague rages hour by hour, With prayer and with remembrance deplore death’s deadliness.”

Below it is a brass to Thomas Stones, long-standing Rector from 1583. He was also Rector of Wickmeare (15 miles away) and parson of East Dereham (25 miles) – makes you wonder how much he paid a curate! I also liked the memorial to the Victorian Rector, Robert Kennion, who was here for 36 years. I can’t say that I have “no greater joy than to hear of [my] people walking in the truth”, and I hope I’ll be able to retire before I am 79.

The font is stunning – I have left the best to last. The inscription on the plinth dates it to 1410. There are woodwoses (wild men) on the stem, the decoration around the bowl includes a pieta (Mary holding the body of Christ) and a representation of the Trinity. God the Father holding a crucifix, together with a dove symbolising the Spirit. Protestant reformers opposed such imagery, and in the reign of Elizabeth I there is a record that Rychard Dey was paid 5d for the font’s defacement. We also have symbols of the crucifixion, and the four Gospel writer (lion, eagle, ox, winged man). It also contains traces of the original pigments – we forget how colourful these buildings would have been. Just enjoy!

What a wonderful Edmund church. Well worth coming to Acle for. But we came for something else – Acle Station Cottage is a holiday cottage – http://holidayrailway.co.uk/ One large step to get inside, but flat once in – two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, lounge. There are regular trains to Norwich and to Yarmouth and the new Greater Anglia local trains have flat access – the only problem for us is that the flat access to the Norwich platform is a very long walk and not particularly flat. They are in the middle of a re-signalling project as well.

Train run every half an hour, but you get used to them. The last one was 2345 to Norwich (so that was on the opposite platform). One night there was a train in ‘our’ platform about 0015. I leapt out of bed to see what it was – a track tamper. I took rather too much of the duvet with me, which was almost the end of our marriage. However I am glad to report that my beloved wife has agreed we can return for our 37th wedding anniversary.

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