touching place

ALL SAINTS, WILBY, NORFOLK

The 1630s were not a good time in England, with a deteriorating political situation. On top of this, the little

Norfolk village of Wilby experienced disaster one day in 1633. As the 18th c. Norfolk historian Francis Blomefield relates: ‘a fire broke out in the parsonage yard, occasioned by carrying a lighted torch through it, which burnt down the barn, stable, gate-house, the roof and seats of the church, and chancel, and all the timberwork of the steeple to £790 value’.

Undismayed, the parish made a quick start on the repairs; the tower came first (two bells are dated 1634 and the ringers’ gallery was built three years later), then they set about the rest. The pews at the back of nave are rather plain benches with simple fleur-de-lys carved on the ends; in front are a set of box pews. Between them is the pulpit, a fine Jacobean three-decker with backboard and canopy, some 15 feet west of the chancel arch to ensure that all could hear the sermon. The poorbox, provided with three locks for the vicar and both churchwardens, is dated 1638, and the picture is completed by the fine Royal Arms of King Charles the First, hanging over the South door, which cost £6 in 1635.

When major repairs were needed in the mid-1970s, it was suggested that the church was closed. Parishioners and friends rallied in its

support, so that Wilby church survives to give us the pleasure of an unspoilt and unrestored 17th c. interior.

Consider: When things go wrong for us, do we see it solely as a problem, rather than an opportunity and a challenge? God does not cause disasters; do we ask for His grace to help us overcome them?

Grid reference: TM 031899

Simon Cotton

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