St. Peter's Church
St. Peter's church
St Peter's is the parish church of Forncett. It was originally built circa 1000 AD and the great Saxon round tower remains from that date, complete almost to the top, and considered to be the best Saxon round tower in England. Only the parapet is relatively modern. The main building is of later, mainly 14th and 15th century date. There is a magnificent north porch with the symbols of St Peter and St Paul, perhaps indicating the medieval dedication of the church. Unusually, there is a west door into the tower which has a unique ancient staircase and the fine ring of six bells.
Photo - Cameron Self
This is a late medieval building which underwent a substantial and relatively early Victorian restoration, and what we see today is an 1850s vision of what the medieval church might have been like. The bench ends are one of several Victorian sets in East Anglia that replicate the 15th century style. They may be the work of Ipswich woodcarver Henry Ringham, who was active at this time and did a lot of work in the Norwich Diocese. Several of them are obviously intended to be parts of series - the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Works of Mercy, the Labours of the Months, and so on. Lust and Avarice are notable members of the first series, and the Works of Mercy bench ends include Sheltering the Homeless and Comforting the Dying. There are also several pairs of Saints, all apparently Disciples. Examples of some of the bench ends (photos by Simon Knott - norfolkchurches.co.uk) are shown below. Click on the images to see full size.
The window by Frederick Oliphant, of St Peter and St Paul, dates from the 1850s restoration. A curiosity is the nave window depicting Christ with the children. There are a couple of medieval survivals. Apart from the font, there are two brass inscriptions to members of the Barter family, and a large late-15th century alabaster tomb chest to Thomas Drake and his wife. A memorial to Dorothy Wordsworth's cousin recalls the fact that Dorothy lived in Forncett for 5 years from 1788 to 1794.
A slightly more detailed history has recently been produced by the Friends of St. Peter's and can be found at https://www.forncett.info/history-of-st-peter-s.html.
The Graves. The graves in the new section of the graveyard have been photographed and documented: details can be found on the Forncett Village web site. It is hoped that the graves in the old part of the graveyard will also be recorded in due course.
News: This extraordinary building is now in desperate need of repair and refurbishment to keep it at the heart of our village. A major fund and grant-raising project is underway. If you would like to help please join the Friends of St Peter's: contact Gilly Barnes - firstname.lastname@example.org - and support our events. For more details go to www.forncett.info.