The Arts Society - Survey of the church

  September 2014.

Church Recorders from The Arts Society King's Lynn (previously Kings Lynn Decorative and Fine Art Society - NADFAS) have completed a survey of All Saints church and have produced a detailed inventory of the contents.

The complete contents of the church, including monuments, stonework, furnishings, plate and so on, have all been recorded.

At a recent  service at the church Rev. Mubarak accepted the published record on behalf of the PCC; copies will go to the English Heritage National Archive, the Norwich Diocesan Record Office, Church House, London and the library of the V & A museum. It is intended that the local copy will be held at the church.

Names and details of makers recorded will be incorporated in the on-line index which can be accessed through the The Arts Society website

Kings Lynn Church Recorders are all volunteers with a desire to promote recognition of the heritage within churches and have now, September 2014, recorded fourteen churches in the area. They have now commenced work at Sculthorpe church.


If you would like any more information, contact Alison Wakes-Miller, Group Leader Kings Lynn Church Recorders,  at alison@wakes-miller.com or from the The Arts Society website.

Extracts from The Arts Society (NADFAS) records of All Saints, including some photographs, may now be seen here.



NADFAS completed a survey of St Cecilia's at West Bilney in July 2013. Read more about it here


Below, see an article, written by Charlotte Paton, about the work of NADFAS. It was originally published in the EDP. Charlotte has kindly given permission for the article to be posted here.



CHURCH RECORDING


During the summer, if you were passing the Church of St Mary at South Creake on a Tuesday, and were tempted into this well-kept church to see the lovely carved and painted angels in the roof,  you might also have seen a busy and enthusiastic team of people poring over the interior of the church - these were a team of NADFAS  church recorders.

NADFAS, the National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies - opens up the world of arts to everyone. With monthly lectures on a broad range of topics as well as study days, educational visits and holidays at home and abroad, they perform valuable work.   Their groups of Heritage volunteers assist on many projects, recording and documenting old photos, correspondence, newspaper cuttings, anything that needs tender loving care and a methodical mind so that the articles may be catalogued accurately ensuring easy access for future researchers.

NADFAS volunteers also go into stately homes such as Oxburgh Hall to help with winter cleaning.  A team recently helped dust all the books in the Hall's extensive library.

The group at South Acre church are the King's Lynn NADFAS group of Church Recorders, founded in 1991 by Dr John Tasker.  The first church they recorded was St Nicholas, Dersingham.   Since when they have gone on to record 10 more churches, each one taking up to three years.

In Norfolk there are also groups in the Glaven Valley who meet at Cley, Diss, and two in Norwich who are recording churches.  There are 200 groups throughout the country.

Jill Bowett,  one of the King's Lynn team, specialises in stonework describing window arches, pillars memorials etc. describing them in meticulous detail and  giving an idea of age where possible.
"It is fascinating" she told me "I have learnt so much about the terminology and architectural features of churches, I look at them entirely differently now as I travel round. At first I didn't have a clue, but there are study days and NADFAS publishes a book, The Guide to Church Furnishing, that is packed with information to help us.   Experienced recorders are always on hand to assist, and in the background are a team of experts to help us meet the high standards we aim to achieve"

Recording always starts at the east end of the church and then the recorders systematically work round the building making notes of simply everything.  Nothing is recorded outside the church.

A team of photographers also carefully photograph subjects of particular interest and these are added to the final volume.
 Five  copies are produced for each church. They are held at
  • The local Records Office
  • The Library at the Cathedrals and Church Building Division at Church House Westminster
  • The Victoria and Albert Museum Art Library
  • The National Monuments Record collection
  • At the church itself. 
There is normally a card in the Church saying that it has been recorded and where the book can be seen.

Alison Wakes-Miller who heads the King's Lynn group, and is for three years the National chairman of Church Recorders, feels it is important to know what we have as our inheritance and its cultural value. She says that she has to curb people's enthusiasm as they reach to measure and photograph every angle, but all volunteers are insured and thankfully, Alison told me, no one has been hurt.
Alison's special interest is ledgerstones.  These are the memorial stones laid above a grave on the church floor. Burials ceased within churches in 1852, so they are an extremely useful resource, as are the memorial tablets on the walls to genealogists tracing their family tree.  Alison also said  'we hope to launch an Index soon which will enable researchers to look up makers, names etc. on line'.

One of churches the group have recorded is All Saints King's Lynn which has 96 memorials, of which a large number are ledgerstones.   Parts of damaged ledgerstones have more recently been used as flooring.   Ledgerstones suggest that the family must have been from the "top drawer" to have been able to afford burial within the church. Elizabeth Freke records in her diary that the expense of burying her husband Percy in West Bilney church following his death  in 2nd June 1706  was the cost of digging the vault  £132.14.8d; there  was  also the expense of a double lead lined coffin.  She paid  £2.13.0 for a white marble scutcheon for the vault, and £17. 15.0. for 8 chauldrons of lime.

The aim of Church recording is to provide a valuable resource for all those concerned with management and preservation of church heritage. It is also used by the police and insurance companies who find them invaluable for identification and recovery of lost and stolen items. Restorers are better able to repair items if they have a detailed description, photograph and measurements.

Barbara Alexander a talented needlewoman, uses her expertise on the textiles within the church, everything from altar and lectern frontals of which there are often many, vestments, cassocks etc, are pored over, admired and recorded. Kneelers - often embroidered over the years by parishioners, carpets, curtains, everything that is fabric based, she carefully describes.

Sandra Tilley who is a recorder of woodwork,  also spends the winter months collating all the information other recorders give to her.  She told me that churchgoers were often amazed by the history of objects they have in their church.  She told me she researches everything as much as she can to give as full a record as possible.  Her special love is painted woodwork and is astounded at the wealth of mediaeval painted wood in the eastern area.

The collation of the enormous tomes, about 3 inches thick by the time everything has been included, are always done to an exact template recording ten categories of description always laid out in the same way throughout the country so researchers can quickly pinpoint their particular interests.  It takes Sandra many months as she checks and rechecks for accuracy; before the books are bound. They are rechecked independently so the record for future generations is as perfect as this group of real enthusiasts can make it.
The book is often presented to the church as part of a church service.  The congregation are often amazed to learn of items of interest and value within the church, their history and their significance. Church Recorders work with the co-operation of the vicar and churchwardens so that nothing is reproduced without there being agreement with the church, and NADFAS are mindful of the need to be sensitive to their wishes.

 NADFAS are also using the information to make Church trails for children.  These are simple illustrated sheets which guide the children around the church flagging up the particular points of interest - there is also a questionnaire included.  In this way it is hoped that future generations will be as enthralled with the wealth of history and skills there are in the country's  wonderful churches, of which our area has some particularly fine examples.

Charlotte Paton.

NADFAS website.