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St. Andrew's Church, Great Ryburgh.

THE ROUND TOWER is dated to the first half of the 11th century, that is the Saxon period before 1066. The walls of the church were built at the same time. We shall note some of the alterations over the long span since then, but can still marvehat the continuity of worship in this ancient building.

THE SAXON EVIDENCE is firstly a triangular headed doorway behind the organ, secondly some round windows only faintly visible in the tower, and thirdly the great lumps of conglomerate stone in the base course of the tower. The W corners of the nave have more of these stones which may be seen with buttresses added later, the east end of the chancel also contains conglomerate.

THE TOWER ARCH (Fig.1) has been modified with a Norman period semicircular top to the arch. The walls of the tower are 4 feet thick at the base, reducing slightly at the first stage.

THE OCTAGONAL BELFRY stage was added in the 14th century with dressed stone on its corners. The plain parapet could have been a further addition. There have been 6 bells in the belfry since 1891.

LADDERS are provided here to ascend the tower, and it is worth noting how much of the available floor space is lost by the ladders. This explains why round towers were originally designed to have external ladders, and the triangular headed doorway on the first stage was reached by a ladder or wooden staircase from the nave.

THE TRANSEPTS were added to this church in the 14th century, Decorated period, as can be seen by the flowing tracery of the south window of the south transept. This gave the church its distinctive layout - like a cross with almost equal arms in each direction (Fig.2). The tall perpendicular windows followed in the 15th century.

THE SOUTH PORCH was not built until 1891 when it was added in memory of Mrs A.J.Smith of Ryburgh Maltings. Before that there was a small porch over the west door of the tower, which was used as the principle entrance, and the arms of Buttes (Fig.3) will be seen set into the tower over that doorway.

A HEATER ROOM was constructed below ground level on the NW comer of the nave and it is there that you can see the construction of the walls with massive blocks of conglomerate, extending deep into the ground (Fig.4). They are laid side alternate fashion, rather than long and short work, and the ground level has risen over the passing centuries.

BLOCKED WINDOWS (Fig.5) show above the south transept roof at the extreme SE corner of the nave, and on the east wall of the nave. They belonged to the perpendicular period and could have been associated with the rood under the chancel arch and angels in the roof.


STEPPING DOWN into the nave one stands between tall walls with tall perpendicular windows glazed by William Wailes in 1876 with large figures of SS Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This is dearly a set of four windows in memory of different people, notably Meaburn Tatham J.P. who was Patron and lived to be 90. Edward Gwyn lived at Pensthorpe. There are scenes from the gospels to be seen here as well as roundels of the four symbols of the evangelists, making most interesting and colourful windows.

THE ORGAN is a fine instrument with 8 stops by Gray & Davison and is mounted on a substantial gallery.

THE FLOOR had been raised over the centuries as in many other churches, but here it was returned to its original level in 1910. The same level is kept throughout the transepts and chancel.

SIR NINIAN COMPER (1864-1960) reordered the chancel in 1910. He is world famous for his work in designing church interiors and in Norfolk his work is seen particularly in St Peter Mancroft Norwich and Wymondham Abbey. He was also architect for 15 new churches. He was responsible for this relaying of the floor. At that time sundry small glazed floor tiles were found and reused in special places, e.g. around the font. They are probably 14th century tiles from the Bawsey kilns. The larger pamments (12 inches square) were favoured for the aisles.

THE CHANCEL CEILING is a Comper design. Angels at prayer stretch out their wings to surround you here, and wreaths of glory fill the square panels above you.

THE ALTAR had previously been at a much higher level. Now it has a reredos depicting St George slaying the dragon, St Hugh Bishop of Lincoln with his pet swan, St Helen with the Cross which she discovered at Calvary and St Edmund King of East Anglia with the wolf.

THE BUTTES MONUMENT in the chancel was a very fine one. Thomas Buttes died in 1592 and had a tomb chest with fluted pilasters and shields between. His shield has a chevron and 3 estoiles. (Fig.3) When the floor was raised the front panel was set back against the wall, and when the floor was lowered again an empty stone coffin was set on the base. At the top of the monument we can see coloured heraldry and the family crest. That part was probably added for a later member of the same family. Next to this monument there is a ledger slab for Sir Robert Bacon (d.1655) whose crest is a fat boar.

THE N TRANSEPT contains a screen to partition off a vestry and on this screen are listed details of the rectors from 1260 onwards for Great and Little Ryburgh, Gateley and Testerton. here we see that Little Ryburgh was consolidated with Great Ryburgh in 1750. It is now a ruin, but its churchyard is still used for burials. There is also a list of the bishops of the Diocese since St Felix in AD 630. There is some loss of records during the time of the Danish invasions in the 9th century, and it shows how the diocese for East Anglia was divided into two in 673, when the cathedral for the north folk was started at North Elmham.

THE E WINDOW of the N transept shows the disciples asleep in Gethsemane whilst Jesus was praying. The N window has heraldry in roundels including Buttes, Tatham and others.

THE S TRANSEPT SCREEN was provided for a War Memorial partitioning off St Thomas' chapel. It adopts a. medieval style, but the paintings of saints are on the chapel side. It is striking to see that 13 men from this village fought and fell and only 8 returned from fighting the Great War of 1914-18, hence the prominent label - "Think and thank'. The saints are well labelled and include Norfolk celebrities:- St Remigius (for Testerton), St Guthlac of Croland, St Etheldreda of Ely, St Andrew, St Thomas with a carpenter's square, St Walston with a spade, St Withburga of Dereharn with a deer, and St Felix first Bishop of East Anglia.

THE E WINDOWS in the S transept are glazed in memory of F.E.Smith who died in 1881. He founded the Maltings which had branches here and at Wells and Dereham. His initials will be seen in red roundels at the top.

THE CHANCEL ARCH has nice moulding on the nave side, but not on the chancel side. It is complete with a modern rood beam and figures, but curiously the roodloft stairs have not survived here. The chancel contains three stalls on each side with plain misericords.


This information was compiled for Church Tours in 1992 by Richard Buter-Stoney drawings and notes by David Freezer.