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St John the Evangelist,Oxborough,Norfolk

This church gets a lot of visitors for several reasons, one of which is that one afternoon in 1948, the great tower and spire tottered, crumbled, and came crashing down into the church below.

By the time the dust had settled, it was obvious that the damage was considerable, although by some miracle the early 16th century Bedingfield Chapel to the south of the chancel had survived. The former tower and nave area have been grassed over now, the north arcade and aisle wall retained as the kind of colonnade you might expect to find in an Italian hill town, the chancel given a new west wall and the Bedingfield chapel given its own entrance. The overall effect is rather lovely, a cluster of ecclesiastical buildings in a garden.

Another reason for so many visitors is that the church sits immediately to the north of the National Trust's Oxburgh Hall, one of the most spectacular Houses in Norfolk. For historical reasons the Hall has its own chapel, but the life of the Hall has touched the history of this church in a major way.

It was fortunate the Bedingfield chapel survived, because it contains a pair of what have been described as the best terracotta tombs in England. To stand in the chapel is to be surrounded by the full glory of the English Catholic Church on the eve of the Reformation. The earlier of the two for Margaret Bedingfield forms a triumphant entrance screen to the west of the chapel, and through the other you can see into the chancel. They are massive, canopied and elaborately decorated in the international renaissance style, and lead visitors to wonder what would have happened to design in England if it had not parted from the European Church.

The Bedingfields still live at the Hall.They were a major Catholic family,refusing to attend services of the newly established Church of England but despite this choosing to be buried in the parish church even after the Anglicans took it over. The memorial to the two Henry Bedingfields had to wait half a century to proclaim their Stuart sympathies. The chapel is a curious place, quite unlike a church and more like a state room in a palace.

To enter the church itself you need to go back outside, and in through the west door. The interior is lovely , with a Festival of Britain crispness to the way it was restored. The memorials rescued from the rubble are now on the south wall, and there is also a fine piscina and sedilia. There is some good surviving medieval glass depicting Old Testament prophets and a king, but the medieval roodscreen is now at East Dereham.

Owner of originalJohn Salmon
File nameSt John the Evangelist,Oxborough,Norfolk.jpg
File Size110.39k
Dimensions640 x 420
Albums39B The Bassetts of Norfolk,England

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