Saint Edmund, Downham Market, Norfolk

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Looking east - from West Gallery
Looking east - from West Gallery

The nave pews and choir stalls were part of the 1872-3 refurbishment of the church.  In typical Victorian fashion, as many pews and stalls as possible have been squeezed in!  (More seriously, this is one example of the Church responding to the needs of the growing and developing town at that time, by providing suitable seating.)

On the south side of the nave, note the ‘Faculty Pew’ that the Wales family occupied, having paid the diocese to have the pew reserved for them by Faculty. (No members of this branch of the Wales family live in the town today.)


Looking end - from the Font.  (The Wales Family 'Faculty Pew' is by the right-most column.)
Looking end - from the Font. (The Wales Family 'Faculty Pew' is by the right-most column.)

High Altar.   Previously a Reredos panel stood behind this - between the tiled panels, to the height of the glazing's lower bar.
High Altar. Previously a Reredos panel stood behind this - between the tiled panels, to the height of the glazing's lower bar.

The chancel was substantially rebuilt and reordered in 1872-3, when its south windows and door were made and stained glass introduced. Behind the High Altar stood a pinnacled stone reredos, with tiled panels on either side, which were rediscovered in 2002 (see below). New choir stalls were installed.

During the 1872-3 works, an original Norman window was discovered, suggesting that the Norman church here already had two transepts. This would make the ground plan of the building the shape of a cross, which was symbolism popular in the Norman Period.

It is difficult to make out, but it would appear from contemporary photographs that a new painted wooden reredos was installed a few years later, either as part of the refurbishment of the 1890s, or even in connection with the later installation of the Screen (the 1872-3 pulpit was replaced then).


East end of the Chancel.  Note Wall Monuments.
East end of the Chancel. Note Wall Monuments.

The Chancel is as about the same length as the Nave.
The Chancel is as about the same length as the Nave.
The new small Chancel Altar was constructed under Faculty in 2004, made from a larger Altar that originally stood in the Lady Chapel (and which was possibly the original 1872-3 High Altar).

The Sacrifice of Abraham
The Sacrifice of Abraham

Moses striking water from the rock
Moses striking water from the rock

In 2003-4 two tiled panels were revealed either side of the High Altar. They represent (left/north) The Sacrifice of Abraham and (right/south) Moses striking water from the rock, both Old Testament types of the Eucharist. The surrounding pattern of tiles is of quite good quality. The whole panels are considered to be fairly unusual in a parish church and were possibly made by the celebrated Minton factory, the principal manufacturer of ecclesiastical encaustic tiles.

The tiled panels had been painted-over with limewash when such things had gone out of fashion, during a re-ordering of the Sanctuary 1959-61. At that time, the reredos panel behind the High Altar was also removed, and the sanctuary re-paved (rather untidily) with the plain tiles.


West Gallery
West Gallery

West Gallery (spot the difference)
West Gallery (spot the difference)

Gallery stairs
Gallery stairs

The West Gallery is magnificent. Look at the fine marquetry panels on its front.

It was added around 1700, probably to accommodate a choir and musicians. It was further restored in 1842.

Access is by a (frankly awkward!) spiral staircase, so the Gallery is not used on a regular basis.  But it IS still used - on those occasions during the year when the full seating capacity of the Church is required (400+).

In the nave, the arcading is very interesting, because on the earlier south side the two centre arches are smaller than the others. One pier has a divided capital to fit both arches.

Originally, St Edmund's was a cruciform church, to which aisles were added circa 1500.  Major rebuilding took place in 1872-3 and is recorded-on the wall plate on the north side.


South arcade - note differing arch sizes
South arcade - note differing arch sizes

North arcade - note consistent arch sizes
North arcade - note consistent arch sizes

South arcade - note monuments
South arcade - note monuments

North arcade and aisle - note war memorial
North arcade and aisle - note war memorial

Royal Arms - Queen Anne - painted between 1707 and 1714
Royal Arms - Queen Anne - painted between 1707 and 1714

Hanging on the west wall above the gallery are the Royal Arms for Queen Anne, 1702-14, another very interesting historical period.

First, notice the ‘A R’ above the Arms and the Rose and the Thistle at the bottom, beneath the Garter.  Then the Lions of both England and Scotland in the first and fourth quarters (the top left and bottom right portions of the shield), a feature introduced to the Royal Arms following the Act of Union in 1707.  Such arms were only current for 7 years, until Queen Anne’s death in 1714.  The message being proclaimed is the achievement of the Union of England and Scotland during Queen Anne’s reign.