Monday, 14 July 2014

The Cathedral of the Fens

This is the church of Walpole St Peter in Norfolk, surely one of the most beautiful in the land. Simon Jenkins, in his Thousand Best Churches, dubs it 'St Pieter de Hooch' for the particular reposeful qualities of light and space in its breath-taking interior. The whole church was built in just two builds, in Early Perpendicular style, and is an exceptionally unified composition, perfectly proportioned - and with an interior full of beauties, not least the beautifully carved woodwork, from box pews to font cover to medieval screens, to say nothing of the 17th-century screen that divides the western end from the rest of the nave. All it lacks is an angel roof - but the balance of plain simple shapes and exquisitely decorated surfaces is just about perfect as it is.
 Anyway, I was there just yesterday, with Bryan, on one of our occasional Norfolk church crawls. It was a curious journey, as the nice lady in the satnav initially directed us, through a dispiriting string of bungaloid Fenland villages, not to Walpole St Peter - but to St Mary, West Walton, which we eventually reached through sheeting rain, arriving in a downpour of monsoon proportions. Peering dimly through the rain I realised two things: we were in West Walton - and I'd been there before, on a walk some 30 years ago, on a hot summer's day...
 B and I sprinted across the fast-flooding car park into the pub to review this strange twist, untwist it and head for Walpole St Peter as soon as the rain stopped. The draught bitter was 'off'; the landlord blamed the weather. We ate baguettes. The rain eased off, then stopped. We went and marvelled at the detached bell tower of St Mary's (Early English and a marvel indeed), where a christening had just drawn to an end. Inside the church (very light, very bare, very Perpdendicular), the vicar, his jacket soaked, greeted us cheerily. We admired his church and told him we were on our way to Walpole St Peter, which we understood was a very fine church. 'Oh yes,' he said dubiously, 'in its way.'

2 comments:

  1. West walton church is early english, not perpendicular. Get it right

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