Church of All Saints

SDC10570All Saints Church

The Church of All Saints, Beeston Regis, standing in isolation on the cliff top above the North Sea, has become a striking landmark.

In addition to its faithful congregation it welcomes great numbers of visitors every year. It is an admirable example of the smaller type of Norfolk Church, full of beauty and interest. Following centuries of devotion and change, it’s structure and contents can never have been better cared for than at the present time.

The earliest part of the existing building is the square tower, dating from the latter part of the 11th century or early 12th. The tower arch opening into the nave is 13th century as are much of the chancel and nave walls. Probably towards the end of the 13th century or early 14th century the Church was reconstructed. The existing arcades were inserted into the nave walls onto the aisles, which were constructed at this time, and the nave walls raised to provide for the clerestory, the window arches of which are decorated on the outside with squared flints.

The north and south porches also belong to this period, the latter having an unusual paving of split flints. The simple arch brace roof is 15th century and is embellished with shields bearing the Instruments of the Passion. The piscine and sedilla group are of the same period. The proportions of the sedilla suggest that it was intended for a larger Church, and it may have been brought from the choir of Beeston Priory after the 16th century Dissolution.

The greatest treasure in the Church is the magnificent 15th century Rood Screen. This has been much restored but the painted panels are in their original condition and include some of the most interesting examples of the East Anglian figure painting of that time. The figures are of the twelve Apostles in the following left to right order.

  • St. Simon Zelotes (with saw and book)
  • St. Matthew (with sword, point downward)
  • St. James the Less ( with club)
  • St. Jude (with boat)
  • St. James the Greater (with book, scallop shell, hat and staff)
  • St. Andrew (with saltire cross)
  • St. Peter (with keys)
  • St. John (with chalice)
  • St. Bartholomew (with knife)
  • St. Matthias (with axe)
  • St. Phillip (with loaves)
  • St. Thomas (with spear)

The entrance to the stair turret leading to the loft has been filled with a net grille, a memorial to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The inventory of Church Goods taken by the Royal Commissioners in 1552 shows the extent of the spoliation that was made in Beeston, and in every other Church, at that time. One important change at that time was the restoration of the cup to the laity in the Communion, with the result that nearly every Church had to provide a new chalice. The Beeston chalice bears the Norwich mark and inscription “BISEN NEXT THE SEA 1567”.

The inventory of 1552 makes it clear that there were three bells in the tower, a fourth being added in 1610. The latter is the only one remaining, the others being sold to defray the cost of repairs in 1765.

To the first half of the 16th century belong most of the memorial brasses remaining in the church. Hidden under the choir stalls are the inscriptions for Robert Ryston, canon, frater istius loci, Thomas Symson, priest (1531), and (c. 1500), i.e., one of the Augustinian Canons of Beeston Priory. The brass may well have been brought from there. In the centre of the chancel floor are inscriptions for Thomas Sprynggold (c. 1500), Thomas Hook (1522) There are further memorials to the Hook family in the chancel. Robert Hook (1654) and Edmund Hook Woollen draper, who was twice Mayor and Justice of the Peace for King’s Lynn in this County. He gave One Hundred Pounds to be laid out for the Poor of this place and Upper Runtons fewell and after spending 89 years in piety and charity, gently breathed out his soul 20 February 1723. His charity is still in operation and produces an annual income of some £2000.

There is also an interesting figure with civilian effigy of John Deynes (J 527), showing him with a mariner’s whistle on a cord round his neck, and his wife Katherine. This memorial once formed the top of a table tomb, but is now flush with the chancel floor. Close by the Communion Rails on the south side are the remains of a fifteenth century priest’s brass with the Evangelistic Symbols of St. Mark and St. Luke. By the reading desk is another brass depicting a skull, probably of late seventeenth or early eighteenth century date.

In the south aisle is a very fine Elizabethan Communion Table, and in the chancel some 11th century Communion Rails. But the main point of interest for this latter period is the fine series of ledger slabs in the sanctuary for the Cremer family.

In 1870 the entire church received a much needed but very drastic restoration, during which many things of interest were removed. The nave was re-seated and the remains of the Rood Screen removed to behind the altar, the panels forming a reredos. It was put back into its proper position across the chancel arch in 1914.

In 1892 the chancel received further restoration and was re-seated, pans of the old clerk’s pew being preserved in the curate’s stall. The east window was given in memory of Thomas Wyndham Cremer (1834-1894), and the small window on the south side, representing the Child Jesus, in memory of William Bosworth, Rector 1867-1892. Subsequently the other two windows in the chancel were restored. That on the north side in memory of Priscilla Blake, and the large one on the south in memory of Henry Colson Fitch, Rector 1892-1925.

Further restorations have taken place. In 1946 the new high altar of carved oak was given in memory of Flying Officer Richard Thomas Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who was killed on active service in Crete in 1941, and who is also commemorated by the ledger slab on the north side of the altar. In 1947 the north aisle was furnished as St. George’s Chapel, as a memorial to the Fallen in two World Wars. The altar table here was that made at the time of the 1870 restoration and which served as the high altar until the new one was provided in 1946. In 1949 a pipe organ, which had stood in the south aisle since 1912, taking the place of the harmonium introduced in 1870, was removed and a Compton Electronic Organ installed with the console in the chancel. That console in the chancel today is connected to a Pipe Organ mounted high up at the West end – the action is electric, and it is an “extension organ” which uses ranks of pipes played at more than one pitch to make a richer chorus than if each rank could only be played at a single pitch, as in a conventional pipe organ.  This instrument was installed in 1990 by Robert Winn of Bath, and appears to have been based on an instrument built by Bevington (a very good make!) that was in a church in Bath*…  At this time the south aisle, originally the Lady Chapel, as furnished, the panelling being presented by the Ward family and copied trom the design of the “Queen Elizabeth” pew in Leeds Church, Kent. The meze reproduces the pattern of the Elizabethan Communion Table. In 1958 the furnishing as completed, with Ahar ornaments, carpet and kneeler, in memory of Winifred Ann Clough.

The south-west corner of the churchyard, on the right hand side of the entrance, is laid out as a Garden of Remembrance and is set apart for the deposit of cremated remains. The first deposit was made in 1943. a Book of Remembrance is on view in the credence table in the chapel in the south aisle and records the names of those whose ashes are deposited there.

In 1951 the tower was carefully restored, with modem copies replacing the original coping stones. Many of which were weather worn. The old coping stones have been retained to form a low boundary wall on the east side of the Garden of Remembrance.

The churchyard wall on the west side was rebuilt in 1955, and in 1957 a length of wall on the north side was rebuilt in memory of Winifred Ann Clough.

The field adjoining the south side of the Church was purchased in the 1930’s to prevent building on the land. It is presently used by Beeston Hall School as a playing field.

*link to a survey of the present organ: http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=D06450 Kindly provided by Paul Ebling.

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