530/3/19 Church of St Mary
Church. C12, with C14, C15, C18, C19 and C20 alterations and additions.
MATERIALS: Mainly built of randomly laid flint, both whole and cut. There are various alterations and repairs in red brick, most notably on the south porch, and elsewhere in carrstone. Dressings are of limestone with some red brick. The chancel and aisle roofs coverings are of C20 lead sheet; the tower is also leaded and dated 1914; the nave has C20 concrete tiles; and the porch is slated
PLAN: The church comprises a nave, chancel, N and S aisles, W tower and S porch. In the angle between the N wall of the chancel and E wall of the N aisle is the subterranean vault of the Fountaine family of Narford Hall.
EXTERIOR: The nave dates from the C12 and retains evidence of its original flint quoins. Its N and S clerestories each have three two-light windows with elliptical-headed lights under a square label with hollow-chamfer and head stops. The E gable of the nave shows evidence of an earlier, steeper roof to either the nave or chancel. The nave roof is covered with C20 concrete tiles. The chancel, which also retains original flint quoins, dates from the C12. It was remodelled in the C13 and its eaves line has been raised, in chalk block on the S wall and smaller flints on the N wall. Both these walls also show evidence of blocked lancets and low-side windows. The two-light east window with ogee elements is a C19 restoration. The N and S aisles date from the C14 and the former has been strengthened with three C18 brick buttresses. The N aisle has two C14 square headed windows with cusped ogees and the S aisle also has two two-light, square headed windows, which would appear to have been much restored. The W bay of the N aisle has a blocked doorway with two orders of continuous wave-moulding and a hoodmould on stops; the corresponding doorway to the S aisle is similarly detailed and the door, which unusually opens outwards, is inscribed 'IR 1789'. In the E wall of each aisle is a blocked early C14 window with cusped Y-tracery. The roofs of the aisles and the chancel are of late C20 lead sheet. The tower dates from the C15 but was remodelled and restored in 1857 in memory of Caroline, wife of Andrew Fountaine (1676-1753). The lower stage has C15 masonry; two diagonal buttresses; a C15 W door with a two-light Perpendicular window above; and square C19 traceried vents to the N, S and W faces of the silence chamber. Above, slightly offset by a stringcourse, the belfry stage has a two-light traceried C19 opening on each of its four faces, each with a pierced slate screen. Elaborate C19 parapets, set on a coved stringcourse, have fleuron decoration (pierced panel of arcading and quatrefoils under a stepped coping); an inscribed centre panel on each face (the N and S faces with Biblical texts from Revelation and 1 Thessalonians and the E and W faces with texts to the memory of Caroline); and square corner pinnacles with two tiers of blind arcading under gablets supporting tall crocketed finials. The tower roof is leaded and dated 1914. The much altered and rebuilt S porch, which probably dates from the C16, has a roughly chamfered S arch, a brick window opening to the E and W walls and a slated roof. In the angle between the N wall of the chancel and E wall of the north aisle is a subterranean vault of the Fountaine family, an area of flat stone paving surrounded by iron railings with spear-head uprights and gateposts with urn-finials.
INTERIOR: The nave roof is of seven bays with moulded and arch-braced principals, the braces being carried up to a high collar and a king-strut and down to wall-posts; roll moulded ridge-piece and one tier of butt-purlins; moulded cornice; and plain boarded ceiling. The aisles have plain roofs, again of seven bays, with moulded principals on wall-posts with short back-braces. The chancel roof, which probably dates from the C20, is of three bays, with arch-braced roll-moulded principals, the braces of which are carried down to wall-posts on carved polygonal corbels. The C14 N and S arcades of the nave are of only two bays, with double hollow-chamfer arches on a central polygonal pier and responds. The slightly simpler detailing of the S arcade is echoed in the chancel arch, which is also C14. A tall tower arch is C15 and has a continuous outer chamfer and a hollow chamfered inner order set on embellished polygonal corbels. The S wall of the chancel has a C13 dropped-cill sedilia with a central armrest, and a tall restored piscine with a cusped arch head, shelf and petalled bowl; and the N wall has a C14 century tomb recess containing a stone coffin lid with a coped top and floriate cross. In the SE corner of the nave is a tall blocked opening to the former rood stair. The church contains a medieval octagonal font with a good C17 timber cover, a good late C17/early C18 polygonal pulpit, C18 communion rails with turned balusters, a nave floor of brick laid in a herringbone pattern with flush areas of wood block for pews, and stone slabs and encaustic tiles in the chancel and sanctuary. It also contains many ledger slabs and wall monuments, the most notable of which are two mid C18 monuments in the S aisle: one, to the memory of Sir Andrew Fountaine (celebrated C18 art collector and companion of Alexander Pope and Jonathon Swift), in the form of a dark marble sarcophagus with a white marble bust (a copy of an original by Louis-Francois Roubilliac held in the Norwich Museum collection), an urn and inscription panel; and the other, to Sarah and Elizabeth Fontaine, Sir Andrew's mother and daughter respectively, in the form of an inscribed chest with a heavy plinth, surmounted by a sarcophagus and an obelisk with an urn finial and heraldic achievement.
HISTORY: Narford is described as having once been a considerable village with its own market and fairs, but it fell into decline from the C16 onwards and is now one of the many lost villages of Norfolk. The church dates from the C12, with C14, C15, C18, C19 and C20 alterations and additions. It is thought to have originally comprised a C12 nave and slightly narrower chancel.
Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson, The Buildings of England, Norfolk 2: North-West and South, 1999, p 553.
Ruined and Disused Churches , Norfolk, East Anglian Archaeology, No.51, pp B8-B9.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION:
St Mary the Virgin Church, Narford is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* It retains an unusually large amount of medieval fabric.
* Its interior contains some very good quality fixture and fittings.
* The mid C19 remodelling of the upper stages of the tower is of high quality.
* Its strong group value with the Grade I listed Narford Hall and the Grade II registered landscaped park, and its assocation with Sir Andrew Fountaine.