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A Normanchurch, rebuilt by the Georgians, restored by the Victorians

The approach along the main road does not prepare the visitor for what Gressingham church holds. First appearances suggest a Georgian and Victorian building, but one look from the south tells us that an older church lies hidden.

The plain west tower of 1734 is quite narrow and not particularly tall. Decoration is restricted to horizontal and vertical bands, and a mullioned west window. The bell openings are small with no elaborations. There are no pinnacles, or any other treatment to ornament the top of the tower, and one wonders whether the ascetic look of the tower was prompted by religious attitudeor restricted finances.

The body of the church, as well as the tower, is largely the result of the majorrebuilding of 1734. It is plain work, and evidently too much so for the Victorians, for in 1862 extensive restoration was carried out. The Lancaster architect, E.G. Paley, was employed and heremodelled the Georgian windows in the Gothic style that we see today.

Neither the Georgians nor the Victorians appear to have changed the Norman south doorway of three orders. The arches haveunusual mouldings - the zigzags of the outer orderare placed on rope moulding of the middle order, with the inner order being plain. The capitals are simple chamfered blocks adorned only by a pair of horizontal lines.

Inside the church is a Perpendicular north arcade to the single aisle. East of this is a small chapel entered byPerpendicular arches. It holds a massive Victorian (1867)tomb to George Marton that rather overwhelms its site. The plain pulpitdated 1714, overlooks box pews. Fragments of Saxon sculpture are kept in the church.

Of noteworthy stained glass, aretwo windows by Morris & Co., described by Pevsner as "late and bad". However, easily the most interesting and beautiful glass is a window of 1958 depictingSt John, with a portrait of the church, by Harcourt Doyle. (below)

The west tower (1734)

The Georgian west tower does not prepare the visitor for the rest of the building.

The nave looking east

The low arches on the left nearthe chancel arch give on to a large tomb chest.

Norman south doorway

The doorway has unusual moulding, and demonstrates the church's antiquity.

View from the lower


The slim, plain tower gives an ascetic air that beliesthe rest of the church.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen