Church of England Diocese of Norwich Hedenham

History

 

ST PETER'S HEDENHAM – CHURCH GUIDE 

ST PETER'S HEDENHAM, HEDENHAM, NORFOLK 

WELCOME to St Peter's, which has stood on its commanding position above the stream, overlooking this beautiful corner of south Norfolk, for at least 800 years.  The parish which it serves is shaped rather like a long rectangle, about 3 miles north-east to south-west and 1 ½  miles across.  It is bisected by the BI332 Norwich to Bungay road, from which a lane turns northwards beside the beautiful Tudor brick Hedenham Hall (built c. 1590) and reaches the church about 1/3 mile. 

  The Romans made bricks here at Hedenham; their extensive kiln and four of their burial urns have been discovered.  William the Conqueror's nephew owned the manor in 1086, when the Domesday Book was compiled and Pope Innocent IV issued a Papal Bull in 1247 (the original still exists) in answer to a complaint by the decision of the Bishop of Norwich to put a stop of this! 

  We hope that you will enjoy exploring St Peter's, which is a living, working building, still in regular use for Christian worship - the purpose for which it was built.  The historic and beautiful place is an act of worship in itself – a sermon in craftsmanship, made holy by 800 years of prayer and care.  Our old churches are places where people of all faiths or of none may find peace, beauty and inspiration and where Christians – whoever or whatever they are- may look upon as “Home”. 

  How old is the Church? 

  The answer to this is very sensible question asked by visitors is never easy, because our churches have gradually evolved over the centuries, as people from different periods and Christians traditions have altered and beautified them and have left their mark upon them.  From what we can deduce from the building itself and from what little documentary evidence we have, the main landmarks in this church's history are as follows: 

c. 1200 – The present nave was in existence because its three northern “lancet” windows and north doorway date from this time.  It may be that they were inserted into an earlier Norman or Saxon wall. 

c. 1320-1330 – The chancel takes its present form, with fine “Decorated Style” windows which were then in fashion.  The south-east nave window has tracery of this period, but its shallow arch is more typical of the 15th century.

The 1400s – A kind benefactor gave money for the building of the tower in his will of 1417 and we think that the nave received its present roof between 1473 and 1502, when the Rev'd Richard Grene was rector.  During this century much recording took place.  The front dates from c. 1400. the porch was added and the two elegant nave windows which flank it show late “Perpendicular” architecture, fashionable at the end of the 15th century. 

1827 – In this year the Rev'd John P. Chambers (Rector 1812-1859) put his rather dilapidated church into good repair.  His detailed diary of church and village life between 1812 and 1839 makes fascinating reading and records the repairs to the church.  The nave received a new set of box-pews and the chancel was restored.  There were box pews here also and a new one was made, “somewhat higher than the others” for Mrs Bedingfield, who nevertheless complained that her new pew “ought to have been made of wainscot or otherwise aristocratically distinguished”!  Samuel Yarrington of Norwich restored the chancel windows, which then contained a considerable amount of medieval glass. 

1838 – The four old bells were replaced by a new ring of six, cast by Mears of Whitechapel and hung by Thomas and Joshua Hurry of Norwich. 

1859 -The  Rev'd Robert Manning Marshall began his 41 years of ministry here, having been curate for three years at Creeting Sr Peter, Suffolk. He inherited a church furnished with box pews, with a square pulpit and reading desk in the north-east corner of the nave and an “unsightly” gallery hiding to the tower arch.  He immediately set about getting the church restored, paying for much of the work himself.  This was achieved by stages during the 1860s to the designs of Edward John Tarver

(1842-1891).  Maybe because he died at quite an early age, Tarver is not one if the best-known architects of the Gothic Revival, although he was trained by the better-known Benjamin Ferrey.  Tarver restored several churches throughout England and designed the church of All Souls, Harlesden, Middlesex. 

1862 – The chancel was restored, a new and larger chancel arch was provided, also a new altar and reredos. 

1863 – The nave was newly-paved with Maw's tiles and its roof was stained.  The box-pews were replaced by oak benches, the west gallery was taken down and a new pulpit was provided.  The contractors were Morris & Son of Ditchingham and B.W. Spaul of Norwich. 

1865 – 66 – A vestry was built to the north of the nave.  More work was carried out in the chancel, including the panelled roof, the removal of the Bedingfield monument from the south to the north side and repairs to thee sedilia which the monument had harmed. 

1867 – 70 The rector provided new stained glass in the east window in 1867, and in 1870 the chancel was equipped with its present arrangement of choir stalls. 

1871 – The chancel roof was adorned with its painted apostles and angels, the chancel window splays, the east wall and the wall surrounding the chancel arch also received their mural decoration, by Messrs Heaton, Butler & Bayne, at a total cost of 157,10s. 

 

1885 – The organ chamber was added to the north of the chancel and the organ built by J.W. Walker.  This instrument was laer modified in 1933 by Hill, Norman & Beard. 

1902 – The upper part of the tower arch was restored under the direction of the new actor, The Rev'd Rober Fetzer Taylor.  The tower screen was heightened and a piece of ancient timber cresting (discovered by the rector adorning his summer-house) was fixed to it between the capitals. 

The 20th century.  In 1923 the nave roof was restored, and its lead coating recast “on site” in the churchyard.  1933 saw the arrival as rector of the Rev'd Arthur Gordon Westwood Paget, who stayed for 25 years.  This bachelor priest was one of the great clerical “characters” of East Anglia, who had a vast knowledge of church buildings and liturgy, was an authority on organs and a brilliant organist.  He could never bear to think of unwanted “treasures” from churches being lost or destroyed and was keen to find homes for many church artefacts which came his way. Whilst he was here, St Peter's provided a home for a host of miscellaneous items, many of which simply “crept in” without faculties.  A host of holy pictures adorned the walls, including a fine painting of the Adoration of the Magi from St Swithin's Church Norwich.  Pieces of woodwork and metalwork and parts of organs were found appropriate positions and uses in he church and later rectors had considerable trouble disposing of some of these.  However in 1963 the Adoration of the Magi went, also woodwork from the Renatus Harris organ case once in St Mary le Tower Church Ipswich and a set of  brass communion ralls from St Helen's Bishopsgate.  Some of these “imports” remain and are noted below.  Fr Paget left in 1958 for St Clement and St George Colegate Norwich and was the “imports” remain and are noted below.  Fr Paget left in 1958 for St Clement and St George Colegate Norwich and was the rector of Letheringsett.  He retired to Bury St Edmunds and ended his life, in his late nineties at Saffron Walden. 

 

EXPLORINNG THE EXTERIOR 

  Hedenham is a delightful, unspoilt village, with its Tudor Hall, its Georgian former rectory (1706), several picturesque houses and cottages and an abundance of trees. The SETTING of its ancient church, on its rise, overlooking the “Brome Beck”, is also worth savouring, as is the view southwards from the churchyard. 

  The walls display a variety of BUILDING MATERIALS. Like most East Anglian churches it is constructed with thousands of flints from the fields, either appearing as flint rubble, or knapped in the flushwork tower parapet.  Most of the walls are covered with cream-coloured render and that remaining on the north side is of considerable age.  In places mellow Turdor bricks may also be seen. 

The north side of the NAVE has altered little since c. 1200, where three single Early English “lancet” windows remain, also a simple north doorway (now hidden by the vestry).  The handsome gabled buttresses supporting its western corners were added c.1320-30 and the tracery of the south-eastern window is also of this period, although it appears to have been adapted and given its depressed arch in the late 1400s, maybe when the other two triple windows (late Perpendicular and divided horizontally by transoms) were inserted to give more light and to provide greater scope for artists in stained glass.  The east wall is capped by a trick crow-stepped gable, originally made in the late 15th or 16th century. 

 Traver's nothern VESTRY of 1865 is quite a Victorian 'tour de force' , with its plate tracery west window , its eccentric east window with a 'Romanesque' central shaft, the rich cornice of foliage beneath the eaves and the gable ends with their flowering plants. 

 

 The CHANCEL shows handsome architecture of c. 1320-30.  It is lit on the north and south sides by matching two-light decorated windows, and the three-light east window has beautiful net-like reticulated tracery of c. 1330.  The door in the priest's doorway is dated 1827 when the Rev'd J.P. Chambers restored the chancel.  In most churches the care of the chancel took a totally independent path from the rest of the church because its maintenance was the sole responsibility of the rector, whilst the parishioners cared for the other party.  Just west of the priest's door is a worn stone coffin-lid, with traces of its carved foliated cross.  This probably covered the body of a 13th or 14th century priest. 

  Hedenham's thin unbuttressed western TOWER has a distinct taper (as at Rockland St Mary and elsewhere).  It is built of flint rubble, but the stepped-battlemented parapet which crowns it has ornate flint and stone flushwork, with stone tracery and shields and knapped flints. Beneath the parapet on the north and south sides are fine gargoyle faces which throw rainwater clear of the tower walls, and further faces peer out to the east and west, also smaller heads at the four corners.  The base of eight former pinnacles remain at the corners and on the central battlements.  Money was left in 1417 to built this tower, or to restore and reorder an earlier tower, and this work must have included the parapet, the two-light west window and the belfry windows (formerly two-light windows, but now without their central mullions and tracery).  In the west face are traces of the put-log holes (little squares outlined in brick) where the wooden scaffold poles were placed when the tower was built.  At the east end on the south side is the abutment containing the spiral staircase to the first floor. 

  The 15th century south PORCH as a blocked two-light west window. Its entrance arch has little flowers in the capitals and also around the borders of its square hoodmould.  The worn sundial above may be an 18th century addition.  Inside, the 15thcentury arch-braced roof shelters a 14th century south doorway, above which has been placed a little mediaeval carved head.  In the stonework of both entrance arches may be seen worn graffiti, some of which may be of considerable age.  The door by which we enter, with its sturdy ironwork and closing ring, has admitted worshippers and pilgrims for at least 500 years. 

WHAT TO SEE INSIDE THE CHURCH 

  The colourful and handsomely-proportioned interior contains fine craftsmanship from several periods.  The keen eye will detect that the ORIENTATION OF THE CHANCEL 'weeps' (i.e. deflects) very slightly southwards from that of the nave. 

  Hedenham babes have been baptised for maybe 600 years at the octagonal FONT, which stands at the west end, near the entrance, to symbolise our entry, through Holy Baptism, into the family of the Church. Its sem has circular shafts with little moulded capitals and bases and beneath the bowl are swan-off head-and-shoulder figures and flowers. In the panels of the bowl are large roses, alternating with hanging shields.  Small pieces of stone in the top of the bowl on the north and south sides have been renewed, where iron staples once locked a mediaeval  cover or lid to the front to prevent the baptismal water from being used for 'magical purposes'. 

 

 The lower part of the wooden TOWER SCREEN dates from 1865, but the upper part of the elegant TOWER ARCH was restored in 1902, when the thin medieval wooden cornice was placed along the screen, between the capitals.  This is now hidden behind the front of an ORGAN CASE which Fr Paget rescued from Shelton church and placed here.  He also acquired the 19th century TRACERIED WOODWORK which straddles the tower arch and has a central charving of the Supper at Emmaus.  This was part of the communion rails at Horringer Church, near Bury St Edmunds.  The CARVING OF ST PETER (with keys) also appears to be 19th century. 

 A sturdy medieval DOOR gives access to the tower staircase and to the ring of six BELLS above.  These were cast by Thomas Mears at his Whitechapel bellfoundry in 1838 and the tenor bell, with a diameter of 33 inches, weighs almost 7cwt.  The four old bells were taken on the Rev'd Chambers' waggon to the Duke's Palace Wharf in Norwich for shipping to London.  The task of fitting six bells for full-circle ringing in a bellchamber measuring 8 ½ X 9 ¼  feet needed considerable ingenuity.  Mr Paul Cattermole writes that the tenor bell swings into the opening of eastern belfry window and the fourth bell, which is set in a frame above the others, just clears the tower roof by a few inches. 

  Crownig the nave is a simple ARCH-BRACED ROOF, of which the framework may well be that for which money was left in 1417.  The carved bosses are later additions. 

  Light floods in through much clear glass in the NAVE WINDOWS, which also contain some interesting STAINED GLASSpanels, three of which were given as memorials in 1943-4 (as is recorded on a plaque near the organ).  Notice the ancient coat of arms in the north-west window, also the shield of the Garneys in the central window (the mermaid explains the name of the local Inn) which was brought medieval glass remain (amongst later glass) in the tops of the southern windows. In these windows are several panels, including the Royal Arms of Queen Victoria, a lady at an organ and Christ wearing the crown of thorns – all 'imported' by Fr Paget.  In the north-east window is Jesus, the Light of the World, in memory of John Bedingfield, who died in 1872. The early 19th century patterns in the tracery of the south-east window may well be all that remains of the S.C. Yarrington glass which was placed in several of the windows in 1827. 

  The oak BENCHES date from 1863, as does the PULPIT, which was given by the Patron of the lining – Mr J. L. Bedingfield of Ditchingham Hall. 

  The fine CHANCEL ARCH dates from 1862 and has elaborately carved foliage capitals and foliage around the arch. The east wall surrounding it is emblazoned with a PAINTING of Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel (left) tells the Blessed Virgin Mary (right, with her emblem of a lily in a pot) that she is to be the mother of the Saviour.  Here begins the superb 'High-Victorian' Gothic Revival work of the 1860s which continues in the chancel, whereby rector Marshall and architect Tarver, did their best to return the church to is mediaeval glory, transforming what was a plain chancel, with box pews, and a simple communion table into a colourful and devotional setting for worship.  The 17th century RAILS, discovered in the rectory outbuildings by Fr Paget, were fitted at the chancel entrance in 1958 by him and his brother in memory of their mother.  They originally railed off the altar table, so that 'dogges shall not defile ye sanctuary'.  They had been replaced in 1863 by the present handsome COMMUNION RAILS with superb metalwork in brass by Messrs Hart & Son, who also provided the brass LECTERN. 

  The CHANCEL combines craftsmanship of c. 1320-30 in its structure and fine windows with that of 1860-70 in its decoration and furnishings. Its ROOF was panelled in 1866 and adorned with paintings by Heaton, Butler & Bayne in 1871.  The wall-posts have carved angels and the cresting above the eastern wall-plates is adorned with crowns and the crossed keys of St Peter. In the panels of the ceiling are the twelve Apostels with their emblems, then eight angels.  The eastern bay is more elaborately painted (as a canopy of honour to the High Altar) with hovering angels swinging censers.  An angelic orchestra in 12 painted roundels adorns in the WINDOW SPLAYS and on the EAST WALL are the four Archangels  - Michael (with balances for weighing souls) and Raphael (with fish) on the north side, and Gabriel (with flower) and Uriel (with book) facing them on the south. 

  The chancel STALLS, for clergy and choir, arrived in 1870.  The fronts of the two priests' stalls have what look like re-used panels from a rood screen; these appear to be 19th century and may have been imported by Fr Paget. One 15th century BENCH END, terminating in a poppyhead, has been fixed to a later seat on the south side. 

 

  In its chamber on the north side is the ORGAN, made in 1855 by J.W. Walker and modified by Hill, Norman & Beard in 1933. It is a two-manual and pedal instrument, with nine speaking stops.  Inscriptions near the console record the addition of new stops in 1943-4 in memory of Arthur Brown, also Fr Paget's ministry here from 1933-1958. 

  The ALTAR and REREDOS date from 1862.  The latter, which was decorated by Messrs Green & King, shows the Ten Commandments on one side and the Apostles' Creed on the other, between which are roundels, carved with the wheat and grapes (for the bread and wine at Holy Communion), flanking a central cross within a trefoil.  The present altar 

 

CANDLESTICKS are two of the metal angels which were fixed to the top of the riddel-posts from Fr Pager's reordering of 1940 when, in the old English tradition, the altar was enclosed on three sides by curtains. 

  The COMMUNION PLATE (which is in safe keeping and not on display) includes a beautiful Elizabethan chalice and paten-lid inscribed 'Hednam Saynte eter 1567', a paten of 1737, a flagon of 1750 and a more recent German-made chalice and paten. 

The PISCINA recess and three SEDILIA in the south sanctuary wall form a handsome set, dating originally from c. 1320-30-  Their canopies have trefoil (three-lobed) ogee-curved arches. Terminating in finials, but the upper parts were mostly renewed in 1864, having been damaged by the Bedingfield monument which covered them.  Into the piscina drain was poured the disposable water used at the Eucharist.  The sedilia provided seats for the Celebrant, Deacon and Sub deacon to use during certain parts of the mediaeval High Mass.  The wall within the sedilia is adorned with Maw's tiles, also three Bedingfield coats of arms and a small brass plate to Robert Bedingfield (1600). 

  The 19th CENTURY GLASS in the chancel windows dims the light and gives the air of mystery which was considered by the restorers to be fitting for the celebration of liturgy.  The East Window is filled with glass by Messrs Hardman of Birmingham, donated in 1867 by the rector.  The main scenes are from the life of St Peter, the church's patron saint – Walking in the water, the Transfiguration, and Jesus telling Peter to 'Feed my sheep. An angel at the top carries his key emblem.  The north and south windows are by the prolific 19th century firm of Clyton & Bell, showing the following scenes: 

South East – The upper scenes show two of the Acts of Mercy – Visiting the Sick and showing Hospitality to the Stranger. Beneath these a lad learns the Word of God and is sent out to preach it. 

(1874, given by Sir Samuel Baker). 

South West – The three Marys and the angels at the tomb of Jesus.

(1870) 

North East – Four Acts of Mercy – Clothing the Naked, Visiting the Prisoners, Feeding the Hungry and giving Drink to the Thirsty. 

(1874, given by Sir Samuel Baker). 

MONUMENTS 

  There are several monuments and memorials to people of the past who were part of this church and parish.  These include the following BRASSES 

  In the chancel floor, west of the communion rail is a delightful little chalice brass (showing the chalice and 'host' used at Holy Communion), with an inscription commemorating the Rev'd RICHARD GRENE, rector from 1473 until his death in 1502. 

  Now fixed to a board are brass inscriptions to the Rev'd RALPH PALMER (who followed Richard Grene and died in 1503), to JOHN RICHMAN (died 1595), who has a four-line epitaph in verse, to JOHN LAMBERT and to an earlier JOHN RICHMAN (both c.1500). 

The WALL MONUMENTS AND WALL PLAQUES are as follows - 

 

 

In the Nave – North wall.

1. CLERE GARNEYS (1767), with cherubs 

2. CHARLES GARNEYS (1808) and CATHERINE (1834). 

3. RICHMOND GARNEYS (1762) and ANNE (1778). 

4. MARY LAURA, wife of F.W. BEDINGFIELD (died 1861 at the age of 21). 

5. CLERE GARNEYS (1730).  His coat of arms is supported by garlands. 

6. JOYCE EMMA CARR, of Hedenham Hall (1974). 

7. The Rev'd PETER FORSTER (rector 1762-1812) and ELIZABETH (1810), also a plaque beneath to ELIZABETH, their daughter (1830). 

8. MARY CARR (1936) of Hedenham Hall. Plaque in Hopton Wood stone. 

9. WAR MEMORIAL plaques, for both World Wars, near the north doorway.

 

 

South Wall. 

1. JOHN RICHMOND (1694). 

2. The Rev'd WILLIAM BAKER rector of Hedenham and of Bedingfield, Suffolk (1762). 

3. Plaque recording the restoration of the nave roof etc.  In 1923 in memory of WALTER and EMMA CARR by their children, William and Mary Carr. 

 

 

In safe–keeping is a loose brass plaque to the Rev'd ROBERT MANNING MARSHALL, (rector 1859-1901) and his wife EDITH, who died in 1928 and 1925 respectively.

 

 

In the Chancel – North wall. 

1. ROBERT BEDINGFIELD (1594), with a pediment and a long and moving epitaph on brass, comprising 16 lines of verse.  The pediment has a brass shield and there are two stones coats of arms above the inscription (North). 

2. PHILIP BEDINGFIELD (1621).  He was only 28 when hie died and this fine monument shows his effigy (what a very expressive face he has), dressed in armour and kneeling at a faldstool.  He married Frances Payton of Isleham, Cambs. 

3. PHILIP BEDINGFIELD (1663).  This vast monument has drapes, nine shields, a wreathed skull at its base and a long Latin Inscription (Above 1). 

4. A long inscription about MEMBRS OF THE BEDINGFIELD FAMILY who are buried in the vault beneath (Above 2). 

5. HENRY HOBART (1624). In a recess beneath a pediment, is a casket containing the effigy of a baby in a winding sheet, his head supported upon a horseshoe-shaped cushion.  Because he is high up he cannot be seen from ground level. 

 

 

South wall. 

1. PHILIP BEDINGFIELD (1672) and ELIZABETH (1670). 

2. WILLIAM BEDINGFIELD (1832).  He was a Midshipman on HMS Hind and his epitaph here is worth reading. 

3. JOHN BEDINGFIELD (1729) with cherubs at the top and a skull at the base. 

4. PHILIP BEDINGFIELD (1696), ELIZABETH (1723 or a 4, according to which calendar you were using) and their children. 

5. 

  Other 17th and 18th century Bedingfields are commemorated by LEDGER SLABS in the floors of the chancel and sanctuary and there is a ledger slap to CATHERINE GARNEYS (1806) near the small door into the organ workings, is a worn mediaeval BURIAL SLAB with traces of inscription. 

 

 

 In researching and compiling this booklet,  I acknowledge with gratitude an earlier Guide to the Church and Parish, written by the Rev'd Gordon Paget in 1936, also the Loddon Hundred volume of 'The Church Bells of Norfolk' by Dr Paul Cattermole.  I am grateful to Mrs Vera (Church warden) for her help and encouragement, to the Rector, the Rev'd Ian Bently for his support and for printing the booklets, and to the Staff of the Norfolk Country Record Office for the use of material in their care. (Roy Tricker, Easter 2003)