Howe St Mary
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St Mary’s church is located in Howe, a Norfolk village about 9 miles south of Norwich.
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Visiting Howe St Mary
Our visit to St Mary’s in Howe turned out to be one of the remarkable ones. This was mainly due to the fact that it is usually locked; but a keyholder was listed, and the house where to collect it was right on the junction from the B1332 Norwich road, a bit away from other houses, and especially from the church and the village. Therfore, we were a bit surprised when an old lady opened the door. She was absolutely delightful, and we learned that she used to play the organ in the church for many years. We had a nice conversation with her, and then – armed with the key – visited the interior of the church. Only to get a companion shortly thereafter, when a gentleman entered the church to arrange the flowers. He had brought a portable radio with him, to listen to the Cricket while doing his job. We had another lovely conversation with him, and therefore we have fond memories of visiting this church.
There is no sign of a belfry for this round tower now, but the basic 11th century round tower survives to just above the top of the nave ridge, though the top ten feet are a re-build. It is capped by a cone of red tiles, the same covering as is used for the nave and chancel, both of which have gable crosses at their east ends. There is evidence that there was once a north aisle, and, high up near the north door, is a round headed double-splayed window, indicating parts of this wall date back to the 11C. In the tower there are three double-splayed round headed windows at the height of the eaves, with their frames fashioned from flints. Below these, facing south and north, are two round double-splayed openings, again formed of flints. On the west wall, at ground level, can be seen the flint outline of a former doorway, now blocked, but more visible inside. Its arch is made from red tiles, set non-radially, now adapted to convert it to circular opening inserted in 2007. The south nave has 14C Decorated windows, but the north side has the simpler Y tracery. The 32 feet chancel is actually longer than the 27 feet nave!
The tower arch is quite wide for an 11th century one, but the round head is set back on the imposts (the single erratic stones supporting the arch) in typical 11th century style. Above this is a rectangular opening, the remains of an upper doorway, to access the first floor of the tower from a ladder set up in the nave.
The nave is covered by 15th century beams, with long wall posts resting on carved wood heads. Most of these corbels are praying angels, but there is a crowned king, and, in the south-east corner, a lady with the then fashionable horned headdress. Below her, in the width of the wall, are the remaining Rood stairs, which formerly accessed the Rood loft, but now there is no screen, nor loft. Nearby is a 1905 lectern, with a carved walnut-wood angel as the stem, carrying the book rest. The Della Robbia ceramic plaque of the Blessed Virgin Mary was given in 1957, and was probably made in Cheshire around 1900. The original genuine articles were made in Italy in the 15th century.
On the north chancel wall is a brass plate, giving the instructions of Lady Elizabeth Hasting who held the advowson, (the right to nominate the Priest), to the Incumbent, probably dating from about 1743. Luckily there is a transcription nearby!