All Saints

A Guide - 2016

The Howard Family and East Winch.

William Howard, the first known ancestor of the family, bought land in East Winch in 1277. A lawyer, his career flourished, and he was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and knighted. His two marriages increased his wealth, and he died in 1308.

His heirs did even better for themselves. Sir John Howard I became Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk and Governor of Norwich, and his son Sir John II became a Knight Banneret and Admiral of the North Seas in 1335. He was the founder of the Howard’s mortuary chapel which used to be where the organ chamber now is.

Either he or his son Robert gave the font to the church. Sir Robert’s wife Margaret left £10, then a generous sum, to the church in her will in 1416.

Sir John III and Sir John IV had little connection with the village, but the latter had an only daughter Elizabeth, who inherited, among other properties, the manor of East Winch. She seems to have liked it here. In 1428 she married John de Vere, 12th. Earl of Oxford. They stayed here frequently, and seem to have been responsible for the construction of the church we see now. The arms of Vere, Earl of Oxford, were in the glass of the east window until the 18th. Century. The Earl met his end in the Wars of the Roses: he and his son were captured by the Yorkists at the Battle of Towton and beheaded in 1462. Though his widow was allowed the use of her estates, after her death the manor passed to Sir Richard Neville, Lord Latimer, and the close connection between the Howards and East Winch was at an end.

Subsequent History

Without rich and interested patrons, the church gradually decayed. By 1641, the Howard mortuary chapel had fallen into decay, and its stained glass, portraying the early Howards, disappeared. Just before it went, John weaver recorded the monuments of the chapel and the font in his book “Ancient Funerall Monuments”, remarking in disapproval, “This ancient Chapell of the Howards, hath of late years, been most irreligiously defaced by uncovering the same; taking off the lead and committing it to sale, whereby these ancient monuments have lain open to ruin”

In the same year, Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, an antiquarian who wanted to preserve the evidence of the greatness of his ancestors, reroofed the chapel and it was saved for the time being.

A century later the chapel was again in a dilapidated state, and, with the archways to the church blocked, it was used as a poor house. The last occupant late in the 18th. Century was ‘Church Betty’, and it was demolished soon after.

During the 18th. Century, poverty became a problem. The landlords were deeply in debt, and the tenants, according to a Faculty Petition of 1778, were “at Rack rent and unable to support their numerous poor”. The Faculty Petition begs the Diocese for permission to do what many parishes were doing, that is to sell the lead on the roof and two of the bells. A new tie-beam roof, covered with pantiles, replaced the medieval one.


In 1872 the Rev. John Alvis became vicar of East Winch. He came to a church where the roof had been unsafe for years, the east window blocked and the chapel derelict. He had the vision of restoring the former glory of the Howards. Many vicarage teas later, he had raised enough money to engage as architect Sir Gilbert Scott, who designed the organ chamber, chancel pews, altar rail and principally, the handsome hammer beam roof of the nave. The patron, Edmund Kent of Fakenham, made himself responsible for the restoration of the chancel. The builders were a local firm, Bardell Bros. of Middleton. The works were completed in 1878 and cost £2000.

Alvis remained as vicar until his death in 1912 at the age of 72. He was energetic in pastoral work, improving the school and setting up schemes for the physical and spiritual improvement of his parishioners. And to the end of his life he was emotionally involved with the history of the church in its former splendour under the Howards.

His vision inspired others who enriched the church with stained glass, the pulpit, font cover, clock and more. In 1906 the parish was lucky to get as patron of the living Sir William Lancaster, a great benefactor of the church, the village and indeed the whole area. A more private benefactor was Miss Edith Childs, who in 1926 left the church enough money for the new altar and altar clothes and a silver chalice and paten.

Since then, the parishioners have been more concerned with upkeep than renovation. Some “improvements” like the black asphalt covering the old brick floor have been unfortunate. Still, we work hard to keep the church beautiful and in good condition, and hope that our visitors will share our pleasure in it.

Going Around the Church


General Description

There has been a church here since Norman times, and traces of the first wall are visible in the very dark conglomerate on the south side of the church. The arches, one blocked, in the chancel are apparently 14th. Century. However, what you see now is a perpendicular church of 15th. Century, with a late 19th. Century nave roof and organ chamber added. The Howards, lords of the manor and ancestors of the Dukes of Norfolk, would have financed the 15th. Century church, and would recognise it today, though the lack of the rood screen which would have separated the nave from the chancel would have seemed odd, perhaps sacrilegious, to them.

To download the original document from which this is taken scroll to the foot of the page - (pdf file)

The south porch is the main entrance. Like most of the church, it is 15th. Century, but why is it built of brick when all the other walls are of stone? It is unusual for the window tracery also to be of brick, as it is here. The sundial was added later.

All along the south side, the dripstones over the windows end in grotesque little heads, but the one over the window nearest the porch ends, on the right, with a carving of a spitting cat. If only it were less eroded! There are carvings on the windows of the clerestory too but they are hard to see from below.

The central buttress has a scratch dial”, a circle of little holes marked in the stone. They were rudimentary sundials to help the priest determine service times before clocks were common. It’s on the south side that the few 18th. Century gravestones are found.

The Sanctus bell cote on the gable end of the nave was replaced during the restoration using pieces of the original found blocking up the gable window.

At the east end of the chancel, a marble plaque in the grass commemorates the well-known local painter, Walter Dexter, 1876 – 1958. He lived for many years in the village and was buried here. Rumour has it that the redoubtable headmistress of the school, Miss Dagmar Smith, was so incensed that Dexter’s family would not pay for a monument, that she had the marble slab from her own washstand engraved instead.

On the north side of the church, the clerestory has carved dripstone ends, but not the lower windows, where they could have been seen! The money must have run out. The impressive graves of Alvis and his family are on the west side of the tower. The clock was made by Gillett and Johnson of Croydon and given by Sir William Lancaster in 1908.


The Nave. Over the nave is Sir Gilbert Scott’s roof, supported on 15th, century corbels. It may look ponderous compared with the graceful arches which support it, but it must have been a tremendous improvement to the roof of whitewashed pine that it replaced.

The octagonal font bears the Howard arms and those of Sir John II’s wife, Alice Bosco. It would have been given by them or their son, Robert, who died in 1388 before his father, and is older than the nave. The cover was designed by the great church architect Sir Ninian Comper in memory of Alvis, who had longed to see the lost medieval one replaced. Illustrations by Weever and Lily of the medieval cover show a shorter cone with straight sides, but Comper has set his imagination to work, as he did with the colouring of gilding, blue and white.

The royal coat of arms above the tower arch dates from 1774 (George III). On the north side of the church hangs a list of the vicars of East Winch going back to 1333.

A little iron bound chest in the vestry is thought to be a guild chest of the 13th. Century.

The tower screen and vestry were made of panelling from the courthouse at Terrington St Clement! The front two rows of pews in the nave were made in 1912, courtesy of Sir William Lancaster, with pew ends taken from the 15th, century pews in the aisles. He gave the eagle lectern too. The pulpit “of strikingly handsome grain” was given in 1876 in memory of Mr. Jacob Curl.

Head from the arch above the pulpit.

The North Aisle

The roof and the battered old pews are original. The central window contains the only remaining fragments of medieval glass; they came from the window tracery and seem out of place in a large expanse of clear glass.

On the wall beneath the memorial to Richard Curl, a consecration cross was discovered during the restoration. It was then coloured green and vermillion. Nothing remains but the faint indentation of the double circle about 15 inches in diameter which would have surrounded the cross.

At the east end is a random collection of church treasures. Two medieval coffin lids lie on the floor, the older one carved with a wheel-headed cross. It was discovered together with other pieces of medieval coffins, as the coping to a dam in the grounds of East Winch Hall, about a mile away on the Walton Road.

The other was lifted in 1876 from the floor of the south porch, where it had lain face down with another tombstone, now lost. Because it is carved with roses and masons’ tools, Alvis believed that it was the tombstone of Hugh Rose, the master mason of St. Nicholas’ Chapel in King’s Lynn. There is a story that he was employed in 1417 by Sir John Howard to rebuild the church. After five tears he died f fever and was succeeded by Geoffrey Billing of Walpole who made the tomb. The journeymen paid one penny a week for six months to pay for the stone. Alvis claimed the “the design of the battlemented transom of the clerestory window and the backs of the oak benches corresponds with that on the edge of the slab. While the work of Geoffrey Billing may thus still be identified, the origin of the story quoted b Alvis is not known, and there is correspondence whatever between the daringly idiosyncratic architecture of St. Nicholas’ Chapel and the graceful, but conventional, design of this church. Even so, the same masons’ marks appear here, at St. Nicholas, and at the churches associated with Rose. Behind the tombstones stands part of the rood screen which would have separated the chancel from the nave. It is carved in the same way as the pews and painted in the red and green common in medieval Norfolk churches. Next to it is a case containing the precious books of the church, particularly a black letter “She Bible” of 1611 and Books of Common Prayer dating from between 1728 and 1803. Most of them contain prayers to commemorate the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot, the “martyrdom” of King Charles I on 30th. January 1649 and the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. Against the chancel arch stands a Norman pillar piscina with a twisted shaft. It is the oldest identifiable thing in the church and, unusually, is free standing. Like the mason’s tombstone, it was found in the late C19th. Hidden in the wall. The Chancel

There was once chapels to the north and south of the chancel. The C13th. one on the north side must have been shut off when the C15th.window, now adorned with sentimental C19th. glass was installed.

Opposite it stood the Howard mortuary chapel which was re-invented as the organ chamber designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, without his usual flair. Alvis erected a brass plaque on the east wall recording, rather too hopefully, the Howards whom he thought were buried there. But as the chapel was founded by Sir John II it seems unlikely that his father, grandfather and their wives would have been buried there. Margaret, Robert’s wife, had stipulated in her will that she should be buried in Norwich. Surely her wishes would have been respected!

Out of sight behind the organ is an intriguing monument to William Barnes, a staunch Royalist of the 17th century. (See a photograph and the text on the monument below)

The organ probably dates from the early 19th century. It was added to in 1856 and brought from Diss in 1878.

The roof of the chancel was rebuilt in the 1870s, but apart from the addition of carved bosses and corbels the design was unaltered. At the same time the sanctuary floor was raised.

The east window has been described as a “ghastly botched rebuilding of perpendicular style” and was probably put in after 1872. The unremarkable stained glass by Clayton and Bell was added in memory of Edmund Kent in 1877, and the reredos below in memory of his son’s wife in 1900. The walls are hung with memorials of the Kent family, while the hatchments are those of the Shere family, related to the Kents by marriage. Of interest is the older memorial to William Barnes’ son Owen, who died in 1670. The Latin can be translated:

Know who I am – putrid of flesh, nothing but worms.

Whoever you are, let this be enough for you to know.

The ornate lights in the sanctuary are yet another gift from Sir William Lancaster.

The South Aisle

The roof is original with delicate tracery on the arched braces. The pews, as in the north aisle, are 15th. century, and were for old or weak people to use.

There are two wicked little heads at the ends of the arch to the organ chamber – the ugliest things in the church! The Tower

The ringing floor of the tower is supported by wall posts springing from corbels carved into heavy heads in a different style from the other church carvings.

In the 16th century there were three bells, but since 1778 the church has had only one 2 hundredweight (cwt) bell inscribed with the words “John Draper made me 1624”. John Draper was the Thetford bell founder.

The west window, glazed in glowing colours and showing the infant Jesus being presented in the temple, was given by Miss Edith Childs in 1904. It was made by Hardman and Powell and is the best glass in the church.

Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths.

Now kept in Norfolk County records Office, the registers date from 1750, but are incomplete. The oldest burial entries record sworn statements (affidavits) confirming that the dead were buried in “sheep wool only”, a legal requirement designed to protect the wool trade.

Until about 1900, many of the young people getting married were illiterate and signed the register with a cross.

Two 16th century vicars willed their few possessions away with touching simplicity:

“To the goodwyff Massingham, a silver spone. To my gossip Awdlye, another silver spone. To John Flude, my godsonne, my bow and quiver of arrows.”(John Moore 1555)

“To John Grene, my sone…. My best brasse keatle and my worst brasse potte, and my best brasse pane….my best payer of newe shetes, and the worst payer of my ould shete” (John Grene 1566)


Much of the interest in researching for this guide has come from “meeting” the people who were associated with the church in wills, biographies, reports of vestry meetings and so on.

The Howards are the earliest family of whom we know more than the names. Many were ambitious, calculating, careful with money, but the will of Margaret, wife of Robert, reveals her piety and generosity to many churches.

In 1434, Margery Kempe, the fanatic who expressed her love of Christ by wailing unstoppably, paid the church a visit. Here God commanded her to go to the Low Countries with her daughter-in-law, who was not happy to be travelling with her!

The Forsters and Curls whose names are commemorated around the church come to life as the churchwardens and overseers mentioned in the parish papers. Timid Rev. Mundford, antiquarian and botanist, contrasts with energetic and self-publicising Rev. Alvis. Miss Edith Childs was remembered as an ancient, ladylike personage formally greeting the children on her way to the shop.A former patron of the living, the cartoonist Sir Osbert Lancaster, came here as a child in the early 20th century and looked at the church with a jaundiced eye, repelled by its shiny new look. It doesn’t look like that anymore! Nell Steele – 2016. Glossary

Banneret: A title earned by bravery in the King’s presence on the field of battle.

Chancel: The Holiest part of the church near the altar – reserved for the clergy and choir. Separated from the nave by the Rood Screen.

Clerestory: The upper windows of the nave walls.

Consecration Cross: Cross usually in a circle, marking the points where the walls and altar slab were touched by the bishop at the consecration of the church.

Corbel: Block of stone projecting from the wall and supporting the wall post of a roof.

Dripstone: Arch over a window protecting it from rain.

Hammer Beam: Wooden beam projecting from wall to support a principal rafter.

Hatchments: Wooden boards painted with a cat of arms of a dead person, placed on the bier at the funeral and afterwards hung in the church.

Patron (of the living): The person with a right of choosing the vicar.

Paten: The plate to hold communion wafers.

Perpendicular: The English Gothic style of architecture used between approximately 1350 – 1530; characterised by broad arches and elaborate fan vaulting.

Piscina: Basin for washing communion chalices, with a drain hole.

Reredos: An ornamental screen behind the altar.

Rood Screen: Decorated wooden or stone screen separating the nave and chancel.

Sanctuary: That part of the chancel containing the high altar.

Vestry: A space in the church used as an office and changing room for the clergy.

Illustrations: D Steele

Photographs: B. Dungey; C Robins; N Warns - Architect.

A study of the church - Julian Litten

may be seen/downloaded - see the pdf file at the foot of this page.

English Heritage - Buildings at Risk

In October 2014 English Heritage published the latest listing of Buildings at Risk. All Saints Church has, this year, been added to the listing - see more about this here

The work to repair the damage to the porch and tower was completed during 2015.

For those interested in churches, from a (mostly) secular view, see an interesting web site - - which currently covers nearly 900 churches in Norfolk (though sadly none of those in the Middlewinch benefice).

Memorial to William Barnes

Memorial tablet to William Barnes. (Note that the tablet cannot easily be seen in it's entirety - part being hidden by the adjacent electrical equipment)

The text read as follows:-























To whose Memory Frances Stanton His

second daughter by his first wife out

of her tender Love & dutiful

affection Erected this Monument.

Semper Idem

(A briefer guide to the church may be seen here and a selection of photographs may be seen here)

Note: NADFAS (National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies), over a period of 3 or 4 years, has conducted a survey of the interior of the church. The project involved close inspection and detailed recording of the building stonework, woodwork and artifacts and so on - see more about this here

Extracts, text and photographs, of the completed report, may be seen here.

See also: