Hassingham St Mary
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St Mary’s church is located in Hassingham, a Norfolk village 2 miles north-west of Cantley.
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Visiting Hassingham St Mary
St Mary’s in Hassingham is one of the churches that is always locked, but thankfully, a keyholder is shown and was available on our latest visit when we had moored up in Cantley, and walked accross the fields to Hassingham.
St Mary’s is in many ways unusual: the chancel roof being at a higher level than the one over the nave gives this Church an unusual profile. Often the nave and chancel date from different times, in that the chancel was the liability of the Rector, and the Parish maintained the rest of the church. It depended how much money was available to spend on the building. The tower and its octagonal belfry were built about 1300, added to an earlier nave. The nave walls were heightened in the 15th century to accommodate the larger windows in fashion by then. The flushwork tower parapet was added in the 19th century. The chancel is also about 1300. There was a fire in 1970 which destroyed the thatched roof, and now the Church is covered with pantiles. The walls survived and the repairs cost £12,000. Hence, the photo taken by George Plunkett in 1940 (see black and white slideshow) is of special interest, because it shows the church in the state before the fire. The south doorway dates from the 12th century, having a round arch carved with billets, and chevrons on the inner mouldings.
All the interior fittings were destroyed in the fire, so now the church has a modern open plan with new chairs, etc. It has a very bright and light atmosphere, especially on a sunny day. The font is from the 19th century with quatrefoils around the bowl, with different centre pieces, a cross, a dove, etc. and is crowned with an elaborately crocketted font cover having a dove at its top.
The east window contains a variety of glass. Across the top are four small panels of continental glass, with four small heads above and below. The next three roundels have earlier Flemish glass, showing the Blessed Virgin Mary and Child, with St Anne looking on, from the 16th century, the centre is St John and the south one has Daniel in the lions’ den (both 17th century). The lower six roundels date from about 1850, and, all around, the border is made up of fragments, some from the 15th century. The side chancel windows each have two angels playing musical instruments in the apex. It is said the ones with a red base are old, and the ones with a blue base are more recent copies.