Monuments in St Peter Mancroft, Norwich Market Square

St Peter Mancroft, with, dimly, the Sir Thomas Browne statue in the left foreground.

St Peter Mancroft is the impressively large church which dominates one side of Norwich Market Square. A long, high nave runs along the side of the square, and at the west end is the massive Gothic tower. The structure is medieval, of the 15th Century, bar the small spire on top of the tower, which is a 19th Century addition. Inside, we have a lofty, long and broad space, with two rows of tall clustered pillars marking the boundary with the aisles. Above, a dark hammerbeam roof. And against each wall, and the main interest of these pages, is a series of monuments.

Monuments with full statues are not to be found here, but in the Cathedral. So what we have in this, the parish church of the municipal centre of the city, are typically what we might call mid-range monuments, ornate marble panels with decorations and cherubic heads and pillars, often to municipal leaders – mayors, aldermen, and sheriffs. But certainly an interesting collection.

The most significant monument is the 16th Century one to Francis Windham, d.1592. It consists of a half-figure facing forward in a window made of heavy pilasters and top. Above, a curly Baroque pediment with coats of arms, that which is central encased with flamboyant leafy fronds. A full tomb chest below with little coats of arms on panels separated by attached Tuscan pillars. The subject wears a skull cap, ruff, and flared cloak above some soft shirt, and rests one hand on a skull, with the other holding a book, presumably a bible. The features are stylised, almost oriental, and we get the sense not of any portrait, but certainly a presence, and of a self-conscious and haughty superiority.

Wandering round more or less clockwise, we note the rest of the monuments. The ones to particularly make sure to see are to Thomas Browne and Dorothy Browne in the 17th Century, and from the 18th, all of James Hudson, the strange Curtis memorial by James Barrett of Norwich, and the Coleburne monument by the better-known Robert Page, also of Norwich; Elizabeth Dersley, the Mackerell monument, the Starling Monument and the similarly composed one to John and Sarah Smith, and Henry Spark Patteson:

Apart from the monuments, we may note the altar, with a row gilded figures of saints and Christ, of later Victorian times, and at the other end, the ornate altar canopy. Also the 18th Century painting of the Liberation of St Peter, by Charles Catton, 1768, and of interest to these pages, two paintings by William Blake Richmond. We may note too that the wooden door below the organ has a pediment painting of putti. Off to one side, along with the church plate, are two interesting 15th Century alabasters, and we may also note the colourful sword rests. The stained glass includes an array of early panels with Biblical scenes, and is repays considerable examination.

Finally, back outside the church, we may note two exterior sculptures, a Virgin and Child and St Peter, decent 19th century work in keeping with the medieval building.

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Norwich Market Square // St John Timberhill // St Michael at Plea // St John Maddermarket

Statues in English towns // Sculpture pages // Introduction to church monuments


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