The next couple of posts involve churches that remain very meaningful for me. They belong to my childhood years and my children. I grew up from the age of two just outside the village of Hempnall, in Norfolk. Our address was actually Fritton, and the house now has an address stated as Morningthorpe. This is not as complex as it sounds…we lived in essentially what is best described as a triangle of villages. Very little stirred in these sleepy small villages, we saw few cars in the 50’s and 60’s and there was no such thing as street lights. It was perhaps as near to paradise as a child can grow up in, with total freedom to roam and spend hours in water meadows, chestnut lokes and exploring endless Nature, cornfields and wildflower meadows. In fact in those days parents actively encouraged us to get out from under their feet and go off exploring for hours on end by ourselves. I then married a local farmer and had my own children, and the 5 of them grew up about a mile away from where I had myself grown.
I then moved to the completely opposite end of the country from the flatlands of Norfolk to the Highlands of Scotland as my father describes it. But that is another story. For 32 formative years this small area was my rock, my foundation and my childhood spirituality grew in these tiny churches. It was here that the seeds were set for my adult life and work. First my two childhood favourites; St Catherine’s at Fritton and especially St John the Baptist at Morningthorpe. [The reason I loved the later so much was that as a child it fascinated me that each pew had its own little door that could be shut!] Often my sister and I would be the only people at the service in these two churches along with the vicar and the organist, a formidable woman draped from head to toe in long swirling black capes which would flap out behind her as she belted up the driveway on her bicycle…and to me as a young child with vivid imagination even then…she reminded me of a vast bat flapping from the belfry. I would stare in utter curiosity and fascination until my sister, 8 years older than me, kicked me for rude manners. I also remember that Fritton Church was like an iceberg. It was always cold, freezing cold….and when we breathed out…vast swirls of mist would emanate. [I got kicked for puffing to enhance the effects in a dramatic way too!]
These two churches belong now as then to the Hempnall group of parishes. These 7 churches always remain open and are lovingly tended to this day. When so many churches have locked doors, it is refreshing to know that God’s houses are always open in this group of parishes; that there is always the cool sanctuary to wander in, sit, rest, meditate and pray in. Firstly here is St Catherine’s and some pictures of the houses of Fritton Common. Typical Norfolk…and I knew every single person living in all of them.
Wall Painting of St George slaying his dragon
Village Houses Scattered around the central Common. The first used to be the Old Nags Head.
And finally Stebbings Lane leading from Fritton to Hempnall.