The calm of the South Norfolk tableland only seems to be interrupted by the passage of trains on the electrified Norwich-Ipswich railway line. Amongst this stands a small and inconspicuous church. Typical of many in Norfolk, it was ‘improved’ in the 15th c with new, large, windows, plus an upgrade c. 1456 of an earlier tower. Yet this church has a tremendous impact when you cross the threshold. Part of the mediaeval roodscreen remains, topped with a massive tympanum. This is of course not the Doom that would once have accompanied the rood, as survives at Wenhaston (ND Dec. 2012) but the massive Royal Arms of Elizabeth I, accompanied by the usual Tudor supporters of the lion and dragon, plus the Decalogue. The arms were put in place in 1587 by the churchwardens ‘Rychard Russell, Jaffrey Neve and John Freman: In there tyme they caused this for to be done’, as an inscription records, just as their predecessors of a century before would have similarly taken the responsibility of the reconstruction of the body of the church.

Tivetshall church retains the feel of a period up to the ‘60s, with its rather battered 15th c. benches and riddel-posted altar. Once many old churches looked like this, until the quest for modernised seating, with stackable chairs in a scalding blue that hurts the eyes. Even more have removed the curtains round the altar, pulling the table away from the east wall for coram populo celebration in, what some clergy believe that Vatican II mandated (but didn’t). Perhaps the 21st century will see a movement to restore the dignity of the sanctuary, with emphasis on transcendence and the mystery of God.


Map Reference: TM163870

Simon Cotton