We have about 650 medieval churches in Norfolk, most of them adorned with heraldry. On tomb chests and wall tablets, ancient brasses and modern memorials, ledger slabs on the floor, carved bench ends and pulpits, glorious stained glass windows, funeral hatchments, shields decorating the roof remembering past donors, bosses and spandrels, buttresses and porches – heraldry can be found in colour and plain, giving a key to the local people and their lives, the honours and the aspirations of the estate-owners, incumbents, merchants and warriors, and many others.
These have been recorded twice in the last 300 years. Frances Blomefield began publishing his eleven-volume Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk in 1805, and it was continued after his death by Charles Parkin, rector of Oxburgh. Another clergyman, the Rev. Edmund Farrer, compiled The Church Heraldry of Norfolk, which was confined to “all Coats of Arms on brasses monuments, slabs, hatchments, etc., to be found in the County”, published in three volumes beginning in 1887.
Visiting each of the churches, grouped by Deanery, has been a labour of love for the last twenty or so years. Records have been checked, losses, moved locations, and many new additions to the array have been carefully noted; and the coming of digital photography has enabled the capture in colour of each of the displays for the last few years (colour slides taken in the early years have been inadequate and are deteriorating fast – thank God for digital!).
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