All Saints, Runhall, Norfolk

We were searching for a CCT church in the back lanes of Norfolk when we came across All Saints, Runhall.

All Saints, Runhall

I think it gets a prize for being epically cute at least? I was pretty immediately taken as I love a grassy path – and it’s in use! I rrreally like how compact it looks on the higher ground and I am a sucker for a round tower.

I was taught in my MA, that when viewing a church the first thing you should do is walk around – you can gain a sense of the proportions more clearly and see where windows and doorways have altered over time.

Runhall’s cuteness (I love to see a Runhall amigurumi) comes from the fact it has no chancel and as you walk to the east end you see the chancel arch has been bricked off.

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What looks like a doorway, is in fact a monument to John and Mary Taylor. The east end is the holiest part of the church, closest to the altar.

Interestingly, the church appears to have been much larger than present and in 1416 Margaret de Berney was buried at the altar of St Catherine in the church. Her second husband, Sir Robert Berney, was deputy to Sir Thomas Erpingham and warden of the Cinque Ports. In her will, she left an icon of St Catherine to the church, a gold cup to her brother Edmund, her house and lands to her daughters Cicily and Katherine, and a legacy to her son John Berney.

I’d love to know more about the altar to St Catherine – a painted niche is mentioned behind the altar by other visitors – perhaps this is where the icon was kept?

St Catherine was a hugely popular medieval saint. In 800 her body was rediscovered near Mount Sinai with hair still growing and healing oil issuing from it. She was known as a powerful intercessor and an example for women to follow – particularly of “wifely chastity”. She is St Catherine of the catherine wheel, condemned by Emporer Maxentius to death on a spiked breaking wheel which, at her touch, shattered. Not one to lose face, Maxentius then had her beheaded, but the wheel remains her symbol.

Which came first – St Catherine or the round tower at Runhall?

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These round towers are most commonly found in East Anglia – the fount of wisdom on them is the Round Tower Churches Society. You can quite clearly make out the stages in which the tower was built – I like to imagine people on a scaffold dropping tools and cursing.

Other details I liked included the re-use of some floor tiles to roof the connection between the tower and the porch.

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And I also loved these tiny windows in the porch – through the keyhole so to speak!

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A couple of gravestones caught my eye. I was surprised to see a CWGC grave as the village is so small (and was even 1914-18).

Private T Allen

Private T Allen

The grave is for Thomas Allen, who died 27 September 1917. His CWGC record is here and according to it, he was married to Elsie May and they lived nearby in Hardingham.

I also loved Bernard Benjamin Briggs’ grave.

Bernard's grave

The poem reads:

We little thought when he left home

That death so soon would be his doom

But it is true what the scripture saith

In the midst of life we are in death

The door didn’t appear to open at Runhall – which is fine by me – I love it when churches are open but am equally happy when they are locked and looked after. You can see some nice inside shots here and here.

If you’d like to visit, it’s probably best to contact the parish office – but I am never organised enough to!

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