The Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross,

Binham

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Gunthorpe Parish Church

Gunthorpe from the south
Gunthorpe from the north
Gunthorpe Cottages

 

Gunthorpe had no church in Domesday, but in 1106 Osgod was Prior of Binham and one Osgotus de Gunthorpe (the same?) held the Rectory here. One of the manors belonged to Binham Priory until the Dissolution; the others with the advowson passed through the families of Avenel, Clare, Le Mey, Wilby, Godfrey, Davy, Le Heup and Sparke.The earliest surviving parts of the church are the north and south doorways to the nave, the former blocked, both of c.1300. Next comes the forteenth century decorated tracery of the east window, the only feature of the chancel to survive Canon Sparke's sweeping restoration of 1863-4. Nave windows, tower and font are mid-15th cent, and shields of arms on the font pedestal may commemorate the principal benefactors of that rebuilding :

Gunthorpe Arms

The first cannot be identified,but Sefoule (2), Wilby (3) and Davy (4) were landowning families here. Around the bowl there are four seated figures and the symbols of the Evangelists: the angel of St. Matthew, the lion of St. Mark, the calf of St. Luke and the eagle of St. John. At the base of the pedestal, only the feet of standing figures remain.The exterior of the church has not changed much since Ladbrooke published his lithograph view in the 1820s - slates have replaced tiles and there is a new porch and an extra south chancel window. The tower with its fine chequered flushwork battlements has been repaired often -the date 1808 at eyelevel near its south-east corner marks one restoration. Just to the west the small headstone to Augustine Andrews who died aged 24 in 1743 has mason's tools shown on it, a hint perhaps that he was engaged on earlier repairs when he died. John Towne's grave is near the porch, and the earliest headstone, to Richard Teule + 1702, is tucked away against the east wall of the chancel.Monuments are few: a brass inscription to Christopher Houghton + 1628 (mural near the organ) as well as ledger slabs to other Houghtons, and in the transept to members of the Le Heup family (see the beehives and bees volant in their arms). Notice the charming rhyme on the black marble slab of 14 year old Susan Might + 1633 in the chancel, and the tablet on the nave north wall describing gifts to the poor of the parish by John Towne + 1777.

The Victorian stained glass here is of special interest, all put in in the time of Canon Sparke, rector from 1831-1870, who completely rebuilt the chancel in the 1860s. His son Henry, killed at Balaclava in October 1854, is commemorated in the east window by William Warrington, a London designer who worked with Willement. Christ's last days are depicted from Palm Sunday to the Ascension,all in Warrington's rather florid manner with strong colour and competent figure drawing. Frederic Preedy of Worcester is the artist of the other four windows in chancel (c.1865), nave and tower (both c.1870). He was also the architect of the school opposite the church (1867) and most probably of the entire chancel rebuilding with its marble and alabaster decorations and Te Deum reredos. Other Preedy windows can be seen at Hunstanton, Snettisham and Ringstead. In spite of some weakness in his figure compositions the windows here are consistently good in colour; his purples, mauves and slate blues are unusual and set off the bright reds and blues in an exciting way. The change in style from 1865 to 1870 is interesting; the nave window illustrating the six Acts of Mercy has a very subtle colour scheme.

 

The only bell in the tower today is one of 3 1/2 cwt. with the inscription 'Charles Newman made me 1702'. Three split bells, probably then over 250 years old, were sold in 1786 by a faculty which also gave the parishioners leave to dismantle the south transept. Until then the church was cruciform.

 

RECTORS OF GUNTHORPE

1301 Ralph de Reydon 1750 Samuel Alston
1302 William de Brusyerd 1758 Cuthbert Sewell
1349 John de Bodham 1788 John Dowsing
1349 John de Baldeswell 1798 Charles Collyer
1390 John atte Lound 1830 Edward John Howman
1396 Nicholas Wylbeygh 1831 John Henry Sparke
1420 Thomas Bryston 1870 Robert Arbuthnot Law
1450 John Perry 1890 Herbert Hethuen Wells
    1897 Robert Bertram Hill
1520 John Davy 1905 Evory Hamilton Kennedy
1558 Henry Nicholas 1912 Francis G. Oliphant
1608 John Carter 1921 F.A. Chase
1638 *Robert Chapman 1929 Edwin Albert Phillips
1662 William Rampley 1955 +Rodney M.Robertson Stone
1699 John White 1970 Peter Jermyn
1722 Thomas Simpson 1973 Peter George Flather

 

*the first joint Rector of Bale and Gunthorpe

+the first (from 1963) to be also Priest-in-charge of Sharrington.