North Walsham, Norfolk.
This souvenior programme is being issued in the hope that it may be of interest to those who will sing at our Sunday Half Hour Broadcast. It will take place on 4th July, 1948, from 9 to 9.30 and will be broadcast on the Light Programme of the B.B.C. A recording is being made which will be transmitted on the General Overseas Service on Sunday, 5th September, so that ' our sound will go out into all lands.' We must see to it that the volume and quality of that sound is worthy of our town.
The choir that will lead our singing will consist of the Parish Church Choir augmented by the choirs of the Methodist and Congregational Churches, the Salvation Army and the North Walsham Choral Society. Mr. John Withers, our Parish Church organist, will conduct and Mr. Brian Lincoln will be at the organ. We must not leave it all to the choir, however; the congregation must come in large numbers and be prepared to sing. In order that the hymns may be thoroughly well known we are going to have two congregational practices on Sundays, the 20th and 27th June, at 6 p.m., before Evensong. Will you please make a special effort to attend these practices ? It will be worth while taking pains to ensure our broadcast is a success.
If you are unable to come and sing in the Church, then join us in singing at home. All the hymns we are having are worth singing, even though some of them are not so well known as they deserve to be. When the broadcast is over perhaps you might like to send your programme to a friend who lives overseas, so that they in their turn may listen when the Half Hour is re-broadcast to overseas listeners on 5th September. The profits from the sale of these programmes will be devoted to our Church Warming Fund. Our Church is large and very cold in the winter, and we need a new heating system badly.
We thank the owners of all the copyright material that appears in this programme for permission to use it. In particular for the hymn 'Lift up your hearts' from Enlarged Songs of Praise, by permission of Mr. E. M. Butler and the Oxford University Press, and 'The Church of God a Kingdom is' from the English Hymnal, also by permission of the Oxford University Press. Dr. C. H. W. Page. F.S.A., has kindly contributed the historical note on the Church.
R. H. Bradshaw,
Vicar of North Walsham.
Visitors to East Anglia are often surprised at the size and fine architecture of the churches. Norfolk has more churches than any other county; possibly there were nearly one thousand, though many are now in ruins. There is very little stone suitable for church building but plentv of flints in the underlying chalk, and so quite naturally flints were used for main buildings and stone reserved for angle stones, arches and pillars. The frequency of round towers is explained by the lack of angle stone. Some of the round towers may be nine hundred years old. The flint industry is the only one that has existed from prehistoric times. Early man used flints for fashioning their tools and weapons. Hence they were called the people of the Stone Ages. Norfolk has flint mines that date from those days, and there are still skilled knappers to flake and fashion the flints so that they can be panelled in stone surrounds in attractive patterns.
North Walsham has a long history and the church illustrates its life story. Its name derives from a Saxon, Wals, one of the race that invaded East Anglia and caused the withdrawal of the Romans. Centuries later the Scandinavians came and North Walsham fell a victim to the Vikings.
The earliest part of North Walsham church is part of a square Saxon tower. It is built of flint with some local stone and is on the north side of the later tower. Parts of the Saxon church were incorporated in the new church The fact that this tower was square and uncommon at that time may indicate that North Walsham was even in those far off days of sufficient
importance and wealth to have the more elaborate rather than the simple round tower. This may have been due to the lordship over North Walsham that was exercised by the great Norfolk Abbey of St. Benet's, which lordship existed from early times. Even now the Bishop of Norwich, still Abbot of St. Benet's and the only remaining Church of England Abbot, is the patron of North Walsham church.
In the fourteenth century the weaving industry created much wealth and East Anglia was one of its chief centres. This wealth was given its expression and outlet in the building of the many fine churches and in the wonderful art displayed in their decoration.
The present North Walsham church was commenced about 1330 and, though it was many years in building, delays being caused by the Black Death in 1348 and the Peasants Revolt is 1381, it was perhaps one of the most outstanding in a district of beautiful churches.
The tower was 147 feet in height with a peal of six bells and a chiming clock. It had stood for nearly 400 years when in 1724 a weakness in the tower stairs corner caused its partial collapse and, alas, it has never been found possible to rebuild it on the grounds of expense.
The south porch, probably the last portion of the church to be built at the close of the fourteenth century, is of great beauty and interest as it well illustrates the possibilities in the use of shaped flints. Its date can be deduced from the arms of John of Gaunt, quartering the arms of France ancient, placed inside. Opposite are the arms of St. Benet's Abbey.
The church itself is a great rectangle of three parallel divisions, with axes from east to west, and of nearly equal breadth. There is no chancel arch and no clerestory. The fine proportions of the lofty piers and arches and the large north and south windows compensate for the loss of light from above. The original roof was removed in 1881 after five hundred years' service. Such a church particularly lends itself to a screen which stretched across the whole width. Access to the loft was by stairs in both north and south walls. The lower part of the screen with somewhat defaced panels of various saints still divides the nave from the chancel. Recently parts of the parclose screens that separated the nave aisles from the chancel have been restored to their original positions. They must have been very fine examples in carving and colouring and of unusual design. One panel indicates the position of the chapel of St. Thomas a Becket 'To (his saint was dedicated a fraternity or gild, a mutual aid society of early days. Return screens partly separated the chancel from its aisles; enclosing a number of chapels and altars. All the upper parts of the screens, once so lovely in carving and colouring, and the rood with its figures, have long since vanished.
The east windows of the north and south aisles have the flowing tracery of the decorated period of architecture. The south window at the east end is good perpendicular, and the corbel head near by of the time of Richard II was a part of this.
In the south chapel is a Communion table of the reign of Edward VI bearing an inscription which recalls the time when the cup was withheld from the laity. Close by are two miserere seats with quaint carvings, possibly designed to prevent monks dozing through their many devotions. Between the south chapel and the high altar is a curious arch of uncertain origin.
The celebrated monument on the north side of the high altar was built in the lifetime of Sir WTilliam Paston, and recalls the letter writing and letter preserving family from which much intimate history of daily life in byegone times has come down to us.
Most of the brass memorials have disappeared, but there are still two of the chalice and wafer type to priests of the church.
The Royal Arms Board in the south east corner is very unusual, for on one side is displayed the Commonwealth Arms.
The hanging font cover, though now much damaged, is of considerable interest and must once have been a thing of beauty with its elaborate coloured carvings.
Space forbids the insertion of many points of interest in this noble church reared by the piety of past generations for themselves and their posterity. Thus in the church of North Walsham observant eyes can in imagination pass in review close on a thousand years of history, seeing in little details facts that fit in with the recorded history of our people. Days of happiness as well as sadness, the ups and downs of generations of our forefathers who have trod the path we tread, some to leave their footprints for good or ill upon the sands of time. May we in our turn be worthy of our calling.