Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Rood Screens of Norfolk – 1 May 2011

As promised by the BBC weather forecast, the sun was shining all over Norfolk, so we set out combining two AA drives to make a figure of eight, both passing through Norwich, and the western edge not far from Kings Lynn.

There were many lovely country towns, and one common feature seemed to be the old stone churches had 15th century rood screens. One of the finest in terms of paintings in the panels, was at Ranworth. An added feature of this church, was that for the first time we were able to climb a Parish church tower.
This is on offer in some cathedrals, but despite the thousands of village churches, we have never before seen an offer to climb to the top. The 89 old stone steps were followed by two ladders and a trap door out onto the roof. The view was great, looking over channels of the Broads. (The Health & Safety brigade have obviously paid as little attention to this corner of the country as the Rood screen destroyers did in the time of the Reformation.)

The widest screen was the 52 foot oak screen in Attleborough, with many painted panels intact. It had been removed and stored, which probably helped preserve it, others were whitewashed, which also preserved their medieval paintings.

On the eastern edge of the drive, we visited the lovely riverside town of Reedham, and beyond it took the small two car ferry, to save a 26 mile diversion, to visit Somerleyton Hall. This magnificent house appears to be Tudor, but although the original building within is Tudor, the Hall is actually a Victorian makeover, but a very skillful makeover. Not many original features remain inside the house, or in the grounds, as the Victorian makeover includes an aviary and an excellent yew maze – actually quite difficult to solve.

From here we visited the gardens at Raveningham. These would be more colourful in the summer, it is often difficult to time visits to English gardens at their peak.

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