We had visited Dereham and walked in Foxley Woods and Great Witchingham and Little Witchingham Churches were on the route back to Reepham. These two churches hide away on small lanes in the middle of the countryside and were a delight at the end of the day.
The Church of the Assumption in Great Witchingham
Sadly the church was firmly locked. The key holder is in the village, but the day was drawing in so this church is on the list of ‘next time’. The church dates from the 13C-15C and apparently has a wonderful seven-sacrament font. The South Porch is flint, with carvings over the doorway and lettering above the door.
The Church of St Faith in Little Witchingham
Not far away is St Faith, a small church of the 13C, standing amongst trees high above a narrow lane. This is a disused church which the Churches Conservation Trust now looks after. It seems a very modest little building until you step inside and find the wall paintings.
The church is rather curiously named after St Faith. She is perhaps better known as Sainte–Foy of Conques, a martyr of the 3rd century AD. The Roman killed her because she would not renounce her Christian beliefs, a gruesome death. I wonder why she is remembered here?
Eve Baker discovered the wall paintings in 1967, and they were restored in 1970. Photographs on a simple camera don’t do justice to the paintings, but at least remind me of this fascinating interior. There is a detailed explanation of the paintings here, and a wonderfully evocative description of the building by another visitor.1
There are no paintings on the south wall, but Eve Baker apparently believed the wall had been prepared for painting. Perhaps this meant that the work was interrupted by the outbreak of the Black Death which came to England in the mid-1300s. It is thought up to 60% of the population died during the plague years and so this is a credible assumption.
The Great Witchingham and Little Witchingham Churches are extraordinary, and I would love to return.
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