Ashmanhaugh St Swithin
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St Swithins church is located in the small village of Ashmanhaugh, a mile west to the A1151 Wroxham to Stalham road.
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Visiting Ashmanhaugh St Swithins Church
To reach this church is sort of a challenge itself – not because the roads are in a terrible state, but because you will doubt that you have gone the right way. Signposted “Byway to Ashmanhaugh” on the A1151 Wroxham to Stalham road, you will reach the former school with the village sign after 0,7 miles. Here, you have to turn right, even though this street (called “Church Street”, so you know you are on the right way!) is signposted as a cul de sac. You will pass the cricket field on the right hand side, and at the end of the road, there is still no church to be seen. But you have indeed come the right way, there is a small path that leads to the church behind the trees.
The church is dedicated to St Swithin, a rare dedication today, but popular in the 10th century when probably the first church in Ashmanhaugh was built. You can read more about him by clicking on this link.
It is a small church which has undergone several alterations over the centuries. Most significant is the tower, which fell in the 19th century, and was rebuilt in 1849, shorter than the earlier tower. It is now the tower with the smallest diameter of all Round Tower Churches, only about 6 feet internally at ground level. The church has a narrow nave, probably originally built in Saxon times, but extended westwards in the 12th century, and later the walls were raised and provided with new doorways and windows about 1300. The earlier fabric includes amongst the flints pieces of ferricrete, a rough dark-brown conglomerate stone found on the surface of the land.
St Swithin is one of the churches that is always open and welcoming. Inside, it is as small as it looks from the outside, but still bright and airy. It has a good feeling overall.
Some of the plaster on the north nave wall has been cut back to expose some of the earlier stonework. The font is a modern one, declaring ONE LORD + ONE FAITH + ONE BAPTISM.
Just inside the door is the back of a pew with unusual carved panels. The top row of “jousting” shields (with a notch to accommodate the lance) show the five wounds that Christ suffered on the Cross, two hands, two feet, and a heart. The lower row of normal shields show initials, presumably of the parson and churchwardens, and the date MV CXXXI (1531). Sadly, I missed this one when visiting the church and taking photographs, simply because I did not know it was there, and what significance it had. But I got a photo from my friend and co-author ‘Lyn Stilgoe from the Round Tower Churches Society that you can see now in the slideshow.
Near the blocked north door are six old bench ends with carved poppy heads and pricket holes (to hold the candles), one bench with arm rests of a winged dragon and a lion. There are more old benches of a different pattern in the chancel.
After the 15th century Reformation use of the piscina and sedilia ceased and now, crammed in between these and the altar is a stone tomb chest. It has a pedimented stone against the east wall, declaring it is for Honor Bacon, with the Bacon shield of three boars. Along the side of the chest are three shields for Themylthorp (three antelope heads with a band of three crescents), Themylthorp impaling Bacon, and Bacon. Honor died in 1591, aged 18 years, before her marriage night. She was supposed to marry Nicholas Themylthorp.
Above is the nice east window showing an angel and the three women finding the tomb empty.