Bale Church stands to the east of a grove of 18 holm oaks
planted in the 19th century to replace the ancient Bale Oak,
36 feet round and several hundred years old when its decayed
hollow trunk was taken down in 1860. If the tree or its precursors
were ever held sacred in pre-Christian times what more natural
than that the church should be built nearby.
Inside the church
it is the oldest part, the chancel of c.1300 with its single-framed
rafter roof, which gives the building
its feeling of light andspace. Thisis largely due to the
unusually largecusped lights of the east window. The two-light
set in deep splays on the north side and thepiscina are also
of c.1300. An odd feature of the chancel arch is that none
of its decorative stonework is visible from the tower
The nave, transept
chapel and tower were either built or rebuilt sometime before
1400. The rood stair rises from this chapel,
a reminder perhaps that roods were 15th. and not 14th.
century innovations. The pulley block, by which the candle
light the rood was raised and lowered, high up at the east
end of the arch-braced nave roof, must be a unique survival.
the walls of the newer building can still be seen elaborately
recording 7 of the customary 12 marks made by
the consecrating bishop. The fresco of St. Christopher, in its
usual place opposite the south door, is decayed beyond recognition.
For the fine medieval glass fragments gathered from most of
the windows into the south east nave window please see the page
on Stained Glass.
was restored in 1862 by John Frederick Preedy, who
has contributed the roof cladding, stalls, pews and
pulpit. Preedy did a great deal of work in this area,
including a number of stained glass windows in the next
door parish of Gunthorpe which had been united with Bale.
The chancel of Gunthorpe with its marble and alabaster
decorations was also rebuilt by Preedy about this time,
so we may assume that the rector Canon Sparke liked his
Several furnishings are worth special notice:
of c.1500, is of a type known as a Danziger.
The bar which formerly secured it by the rings now
holds the tower door.
The Royal Arms
These have been modified more than once by overpainting.
The initials CR indicate that Stuart arms were first painted
c.1660 to celebrate the Restoration. The date was later altered
to 1698 on the accession of William and Mary, and then sometime
after 1714 the CR became GR and the Hanoverian quarterings
and escutcheon were painted in the fourth quarter.
The font can
be dated c.1470 from the style of the blank tilting
shield on the west face, shaped at the top as
a lance rest.
As well as four flower panels there are three other shields,
south, the cross of St. George, east, the symbols of the Passion
(cross, crown of thorns, spear, reed and sponge, scourge and
cup of vinegar) and north, the Trinity, from the centre of
which peers a small face.
The same window
tracery can be seen on the 14th century towers here
and at Sharrington and Brinton; at Bale & Brinton
there are also similar image niches in the west faces of
the towers. High up on the south west and north east
the nave see small squat carved stone heads. The other corners
have flower corbels. It is interesting that footings have
been found for an earlier south porch east of the present
for a vestry on the north side of the chancel.
In the tower
there is a test board with verses from Psalm 43 painted
in red on black in 1637. The marks of a
former tower screen
or gallery can be seen low down on the tower arch.
The Bells and their Inscriptions
(D) 4 ½ cwt. Charles Newman made mee 1710
2. (C) 5 ½ cwt. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, help us (c.1440)
3. (B) 6 cwt. John Brend made me 1647 Norwich
4. (A) 7 ½ cwt Gabriel sing sweetly in this company Brasyer of Norwich c. 1480
Tenor(G) 9 ½ cwt Recast by Ellas Brend 1658
Treble and 2.came in 1839 from St. Michael-at-Thorn, Norwich;
2. and 3. were recast 1902.
The last three appear in a 1552 inventory, but only 4.is as originally
St. Botolph's Chapel
Until 1776 at the
north east of the church there was a building formerly called
St. Botolph's Chapel which received bequests in pre-Reformation
Will bequests. This may indicate a connection between Bale
7th century monastery
at Iken near Aldeburgh in Suffolk. He was regarded as an
major early pioneer of Benedictine monasticism in England and
as a guardian of travellers and as an exorcist. The local Priory
of Binham was a Benedictine foundation.
Known Rectors of BALE before union with GUNTHORPE
1303 Vincent de Norton
1323 Henry de Wodenorton
1339 Roger de Norton
1354 Edmund or Adam de Redgrave
1380 William Clarke
1392 Henry Sturdy
1393 John Austin
1411 John Gibbs
1420 Thomas Ludham
1447 John Kentyng
ante 1458 Simon Sharrington
ante 1600 James Armestead
post 1600 John Charter
c. 1615 William Cochram
1638 Robert Chapman