CofE Norwich Diocese The Briningham Benefice

All Saints' Church, Thornage

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.

All Saints Thornage All Saints Thornage

In All Saints' Church, Thornage, we can find glimpses of people's work from all ages of our history. Starting with Aylroer, Bishop of Elmham, who was Lord of the Manor here in 1047. From then on, all subsequent bishops were Lords of the Manor until Henry VIII's reign.

On the NW corner of the nave we see a splendid example of "long & short work", which was typical of the saxon period. Such corners are rare in Norfolk, because of the scarcity of cut stone in the county in that period.

On the N side we see two Norman windows with semi-circular arches at the top and deeply splayed on the inside. These were discovered and opened up in the restoration of 1898. A lancet was added at the same time. One might wonder how many more such windows remain concealed within the walls of our ancient Norfolk churches.


The East Window is shown in Ladbrooke's drawing as 3 stepped lancets under one high pointed arch, clearly of the Early English period (13th century). It was modified in the Victorian restoration. The walls of the nave and chancel are continuous on the inside, but there are minor differences on the outside. The N wall has galleting - that is flakes of flints inserted into the mortar between the main flints.

The Tower is typical of the 13th century Early English period with no buttresses. It has a turret staircase in the NW corner. The parapet and W window are improvements made in the perpendicular period with further additions in Victorian times. There is only one bell and it is made in an unknown foundry of very early date. The story is told here of a man who lost his way in a snowstorm and then found his way home by the sound of the Thornage bell; so he donated one acre of land in Hunworth parish to yield money for the upkeep of the bell. In 1700 this plot of land "was knowne by ye name of Bell Acre".

Interior A vestry was added as a memorial for the dead of the 1914-18 war in an unusual position S of the tower.

The Tomb on the S side is of great importance to the history of this church. It has only heraldry to identify it. It is the tomb of Sir William Butt, and his wife, Jane, daughter of Henry Bures. Sir William Butt was the High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk and died in 1583. His father was the chief physician to Henry VIII and it was the king who gave him the advowson of this church and made him Lord of the Manor. He lived at Thornage Hall which is thought to be one of the oldest halls in Norfolk. We know this because the house was improved by James Goldwell, Bishop of Norwich, who left his emblem on-it. Originally the tomb would have included reclining effigies of Sir William and his wife under the arch. On the left is his family crest which is a military horse's head with two feathers erect, on the right is a wyvern, being the Bures family crest. A wyvern has a serpent's tail, a dragon's head and a body with wings and two legs. The motto, "Soyez sage et simple" means "Be wise and simple". On the shields above, one can find the Astley arms quartered with that of the Bacon family - a pig..

The Glazing: The E .window has a centre medallion showing Christ throned in glory with His fingers raised to bless us. He is flanked by Mary and Joseph within circles of gold.

In the chancel SE window tracery, we can find St Anne with the infant St Mary in her arms and angels on either side. The other chancel window has the crowned Virgin Mary. Here in the main light is preserved a pane with the wyvern crest of Bures, which is contemporary with the tomb alongside. There is also an abundance of Victorian wyverns.

Memorials: On the floor on the opposite side, next to the organ, is a large slab for the Revd Francis Fesquit, Rector of Thornage and Melton Constable, telling us that "he was a charitable and faithful minister who left his native country (France) for the sake of the true Protestant Religion. "He endeth this life the 4th September,1734, in the 86th year of his age".

From a pair of ledger slabs in the chancel we learn of the tragic death in infancy of four children of the 18th century rector, the Revd John Astley and his wife, who both lived long lives themselves.

The grand little pipe organ is an early one, made originally for a large house and subsequently given to the church. A minstrel's gallery at the W end of the church was removed in 1898.


The altar was made from cedar wood (golden brown) and olive wood (very dark), both derived from the Holy Land and constructed at Bayfield Hall. It was the gift of Sir Alfred Jodrell who was generous to many of the churches around here.

The angle piscina has a pretty shaft, typical of the Early English period, and is probably the same date as the E window, say early 13th century.

A panel of Black Letter Texts can be seen on the right of the E window. These might have taken the place of an even earlier wall painting of a saint. These texts were discovered under the whitewash in the 1898 restoration and include the Biblical texts: "Obey them that have ye rule over you..." "Submit yourselves..." "Watch for your souls..." At the same time the Royal Arms used to hang above the E window. At that time authority was exerted with a heavy hand!

Inside the Nave: First we find that there is no chancel arch, and only a most modest tower arch which, with the straight walls, give a disappointingly plain church. But then we notice the two great octagonal piers and arches on the S side where once there was a S aisle. It was added in the 14th century and removed in the 18th century. The present windows are plain which makes one wonder why the former windows were not reused.

Inside the Tower: A medieval fireplace in the tower is a glorious feature. Local tradition holds that it was used to bake wafers for the services in earlier times. Recently it has had a shelf and door added to make it into a useful cupboard about 2 feet square.

An enormous gravestone nearly paves the entire floor area of the tower and bears the indents of a figure brass of man and wife facing each other.

An incised slab against the tower wall is an interesting and rare type of memorial used as an alternative to a floor brass. It has been moved here from the N side of the chancel. Blomefield explains that this is Anne Heigham. She first married Henry Bures of Acton in Suffolk, and secondly married Sir Clement Heigham. She was daughter of George Waldegrave and had 3 sons and 5 daughters. We see her depicted at her prayer desk with her heraldry above. She died in 1590, aged 84.

A money box of wrought iron, heavily strapped and with substantial handles is still used for gifts towards the upkeep of this church. It has a dummy keyhole in the front, and the real one is concealed in the lid. It has a complicated lock, which fastens the top to all four sides. Such boxes, described as "The Armada type" were made in Flanders, Germany and Austria during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Communion Cup is most interesting, because it is clearly Elizabethan in style and yet it bears a pre-Reformation inscription thus "Ye gifts of John Butes and Margret hys wyfe 1456 whych died in 1477". He was an ancestor of Sir William Butt of the chancel tomb. The paten bears the additional information inscribed- "the fasion altred by I Stalon, cla. 1563".

For more information about All Saints' Church, Thornage see

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

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