The Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross,
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History of the Church
Although Sharrington is mentioned in Domesday - as Scarnetuna or 'muddy-place' - it did not have one of the six churches in the Hundred of Holt, Saxlingham and Thornage being the nearest. The manor and the living passed through many hands; in succession the families of Broughton, Daubeney, Hunt, Newman, Warner, Jodrell and White held here. (See pages on Blomefield etc).
The 14th c. Tower now serves as porch and stands proudly to a height of 66 feet. From its summit, even in summer, can be seen the churches of Thornage, Hunworth, Old Edgefield, Stody, Briningham, Bale, Gunthorpe, Hindringham, Langham and Blakeney. For this reason it is an Ordnance Survey Triangulation Point.
On the way up the tower the riser of the eighteenth step, illustrated left. In it is set a stone decorated with two circular patterns, on the right geometrical, on the left flowing and cusped decorated tracery. The date 1300 marks the dividing line between these styles and this is no doubt the work of a mason's apprentice.
The first floor chamber has a fireplace and was once lived in, probably by one of the chantry priests who sang masses for the souls of those who by legacies endowed their salaries. In 1523, we read, the church had three chantry priests as well as the parson; no church in Holt Hundred had as many. Of the four bells only one remains, inscribed by its Norwich maker THO: NEWMAN MADE MEE 1715; frames for the other three (of 1552) remain.
The arch from tower to nave is unusally low and sturdy, needing three chamfers to pierce the thick east tower wall.
Above it the Royal Arms are Georgian but cannot be dated more closely than 1714-1801, a long period during which Royal Arms were unchanged. The quarters show the arms of: I.England and Scotland impaled 2.France modern 3.Ireland and 4. Hanover.
North Norfolk was a powerful Whig stronghold and so pro-Hanoverian; it could be that earlier Stuart Arms are here overpainted.
The table at the west end of the nave, although a humble one, is nevertheless of the 17th c. and in all probability the former Holy Table from the sanctuary. The ironbound and studded chest is late medieval. Four pews on each side at the west end have fixed to them poppyheads from discarded 15th or 16th c. pews, the one illustrated is a depiction of the Agnus Dei.
On the west wall of the nave there is a blocked archway into the tower chamber. One purpose for such an opening is for a bellringer to observe the progress of the celebration so that he might ring the bell at the Sanctus. A gallery,in existence in 1849, may have been entered by this opening, or had its own staircase from the nave.
Nave, Aisles and Transepts
The aisles and transepts were removed at some time between Martin's visit in 1734 and the 1820s when Robert Ladbrooke drew the church for lithographs. The arcades were filled up with flint and brick and four of the former aisle and transept windows, without, unfortunately, the splendid medieval glass of which an account survives.
The circular columns and capitals are of the 13th c, earlier than the chancel windows (1300) and the tower (14th c.) The nave and chancel are now of uniform width and under one roof; before 1880 the chancel was narrower and lower. There are marks on the easternmost column on the north side where the chancel screen was fixed and above it the door opening onto the rood beam. The screen, still in place when Martin came, was decorated with a pattern of Ps and crossed keys (for St.Peter); a chantry altar of that dedication probably stood against the screen.
In the floor at this point, is a black marble ledger slab to John Warkhouse, died 1656. His arms were Sable, three covered cups Argent,and the Latin couplet now almost effaced read:
At the first of two major restorations (1880 and 1908) the vestry and chancel were rebuilt and the floor tiled. The Rector's stall bears the date 1879 and the rather obscure rebus of a beehive and a barrel, the latter for -tun obviously. The only way we can make anything like Sharring- from the beehive is to recall that an early name for the humble-bee was sharn-bug, and' that in Suffolk the sound of bees humming was called sharming. Hence, Sharnton or Sharmington.
The brasses are most interesting, but sadly out of their stone matrices:
2. Priest in mass vestments, without the stole or maniple, and inscription to John Botolff, Rector, 1458-1486.
3. Inscription for John Sharrington,gentleman,1498.
4. Smaller shield, c.1500, inscription lost. Arms of Daubeney Argent 5 fusils in fess Gules.
5. Figure of a woman in a pedimental headdress and the larger shield (man's figure, shield and inscription lost). Part of another Daubeney brass, the arms being Daubeney with the addition of 2 martleTs (Sable) above the fusils in fess.
6. Inscription to Thomas and Anne Daubeney,1527. He was lord of the manor and extended the Hall to the west in the late 15th century.
7. Kneeling figures and inscription to Christopher Daubeney, died 1583, and his family (a shield missing). He was the last Daubeney lord of Sharrington.
Two brasses are lost altogether : to William Townsend, priest, 1488 and Ann Lomnor, 1508.
The piscina in the sanctuary has a column so similar to those of the nave arcades that they must be contemporary. The ogee-headed arch to the niche looks like a Victorian addition in the 14th c. style.
Altar, pulpit, font and roof are all of 1880 or 1908; strangely Munro Cautley thought the font medieval. The roof corbels are puzzling. There is a charge in the accounts for 1850 for 'repairing the. stone heads.' medieval corbels must have been recut or renewed in 1908 though the Faculty of that date makes no reference to them. ( See below)
On the southside of the church, there is an elaborately decorated 14th c. canopy beneath the stair turret.
Furth east the priest's door leading out of the chancel has the head of a bishop or abbot carved on the dripstone. A good Norfolk headstone has been used to block the doorway and its details are thus well preserved.
The east window mullions seen from outside have an unusually elaborate crosssection.
Above the north arcade infilling can still be seen the five corbels which formerly supported the aisle roof timbers. On the north side, too, is the oldest surviving tombstone: to James Nelson who died in 1707 aged 76.
East of the church see the 14th c. wayside cross. Its decorated base is a single stone with holes on four sides for lifting into place. The three upper sections are a restoration. The cross and church probably lay on a pilgrimage route from East Norfolk to Binham and Walsingham. It is said that four ways met at the cross until the Enclosure Act of 1796, the southern way leading to Brinton.