CofE Norwich Diocese The Briningham Benefice

St Maurice's Church, Briningham



The above picture is a Google Maps virtual tour. You can move around the church, using the mouse, and also go through the door into the churchyard. Click here to see a larger version of this virtual tour, together with some photographs.

St Maurice's Church, Briningham, has plenty of puzzling curiosities to interest the visitor. First, as you go up the church path you will notice a slit window in the tower matched by another just under the eave of the nave. Once inside the church the reason for this second one becomes clear. It is to light the access to the higher stages of the tower, because there is an iron ladder leading to a turret door just there. This is a unique arrangement.

Exterior

It is rare to find a church with the tower offset to the S and used as a porch (cf Colkirk, Stanhoe et alia). It contains one bell. The simple y tracery of the belfry openings suggests a date around 1300 with a W window to the nave of the same period. The tower's parapet of plain flints is a later addition. One is left wondering why the tower was put in this unconventional position. Had a round tower collapsed at the W end?

A hanging lantern large enough to hold an oil lamp has been adapted for electricity in the porch. The bell is inscribed "E.T.1674". It was made by Edward Tooke, a famous Norfolk bellfounder of that early date.

The view of Briningham church from the S is dominated by the very large nave window with the most glorious flowing tracery of the late decorated period, say around 1360. Alongside is a much more modest window of the perpendicular period. This is unusual, because so often in Norfolk we find larger windows of the perpendicular period.

The chancel East window also has nice flowing tracery of the late decorated period; it is a different design from the nave window. The muzzled bearOn going round to see the glorious E window from the outside the visitor will be surprised by the enormous bear's head on a tall pyramidal obelisk). This is the family crest of the Brereton family who have long associations with this church. The story is told that the bear became muzzled because the young Brereton of the time served in the then King's cavalry and was far too impetuous. He led his men too soon into battle and the King mildly rebuked him, saying "Let the bear be muzzled".

On the south side of the chancel will be found a blocked "Low side window" constructed with flints on either side and a timber top. It is very close to the chancel arch and this confirms the theory that windows like this and the one at Melton Constable were used by the clerk to ring a sanctus bell on the roof when the bread and wine were consecrated. The wood at the top would chafe the bell rope less than flints. The present chancel roof was constructed in 1896.

A memorial is set into the S wall of the chancel which exhorts us thus:- "while Time doth run, from sin depart for who can shun death's piercing dart". It is in memory of William Spurrell, d.1728, aged 42.

Coming round the relatively modern vestry on the N side of the chancel you may see the buttresses coloured pink by a lichen called Candelariella aurella.

Chancel Window

The W wall of the nave shows the greatest signs of its antiquity. There are lumps of conglomerate which are usually associated with Saxon work in this part of Norfolk, so it could be that this W wall is the oldest surviving part of the church, say 1,000 years old.

The Interior.

The Nave: One steps down into the church where there is a large slab of ancient wood as a main step, which is unusual for a church, the nave is well lit by its ample windows. All windows in this church have coloured glass, but the colours are poor and the effect somewhat unsatisfactory. The W window has moulded glass put there in 1899, but of the type more commonly associated with early Victorian work.

The large S window has a pair of beautiful little shafts set on the inner corners. They look like Norman work and one wonders if this window replaced a pair of tiny Norman lancets with these shafts on either side. The pulpit is nice, but undistinguished. The church is surprisingly lacking in memorials. There is a war manorial plaque on either side and some modest inscriptions where donors have restored a window or other feature. The wall is thicker at its base on the N aids, and this feature is used to provide special children's seats with their backs to the wall. One wonders if this base course could be Norman.

Virgin Mary

The Chancel has better glazing. On the N side there are unusual resurrection and ascension scenes by William Wailes in 1856. The risen Lord raises his wounded hand to bless you and says "I am the resurrection and the life". Then as he ascends to heaven you see his footprints left in the grass and he says "I ascend to my father and to your father".

St Maurice

The S chancel window was glazed in 1954 with St Celia and St Agnes done in a tasteful design with deep colours but only occupying the central portion of the window. St Celia is robed in maroon and holds a delightful little organ. St Agnes is in blue with a cloak of gold and carries a book with a lamb in her right hand and a sword in her left hand. She was martyred in Rome in AD 304 when she was still quite young, She founded a church in the Trastevere quarter of Rome. The window is in memory of a church organist, named Agnes, hence the choice of saints.

The communion rail is supported by bulbous wooden balusters which are a notable feature of this church. Pevsner dates them at about 1700.

The sedilia is level but has a row of ball flowers along the top and some pretty carving in stone on each side.

Two grand niches occupy the E wall. They have great ogee headed tops of the 14th century. Their original statues would have been destroyed in the 16th century, but they are now filled with modern wood carvings of St Maurice and the Virgin Mary. St Maurice was commander of the "Theban legion", which was massacred in Gaul for refusing to take part in pagan ceremonies.

St Maurice's Church, Briningham St Maurice's Church, Briningham, in the snow St Maurice in the sun

For more information about St Maurice's Church, Briningham see www.norfolkchurches.co.uk


Briningham St Maurice Hunworth St Lawrence Swanton Novers St Edmund
Brinton St Andrew Stody St Mary Thornage All Saints