St Mary's Church, Stody
The above picture is a Google Maps virtual tour. You can move around the church, using the mouse, and also go through the door into the churchyard. Click here to see a larger version of this virtual tour, together with some photographs.
THE ROUND TOWER. Many authors have found difficulty in dating the round tower of Stody church, but all have admitted that it could be Saxon (i.e. before 1066). Mr. W.J.Goode in his book "East Anglian Round Towers and their Churches", writing in 1982, found the following reasons for calling it Saxon:
- The thickness of the walls. In the Norman period the walls were always much thicker and here we find a relatively slim wall. Look at the top of the tower arch.
- The coursing of the flints in horizontal layers with slight variations in bands, as the work was done in seasons when farm work permitted
- The tower arch has no cut stone and tapers to a triangular point in the Saxon style. In Norman times dressed stone would have been used for the corners.
- There is a fillet on the N side to join the tower to the W. wall of the church. On the S. side the turret stairs have been added later.
- Traces of window openings on the N, & S, sides have been found on the first floor stage, All 4 belfry openings and the ground floor window were obvious alterations in the decorated period, some 300 years later.
THE EXTERIOR OF THE CHURCH. The belfry windows look very nice and would be contemporary with the chancel windows, say about 1340. Above them we see flushwork panels with white knapped flints which would probably be a 15th century addition. These white flints are a feature of N. Norfolk churches and make the tower show up well from a distance.
The nave and chancel walls are the same width and height without any chancel arch, nor screen to divide them. In fact they are extremely narrow and have been interrupted in the 15th. century by adding transepts of the same height.
The nave N. wall contains some conglomerate stones in its lower parts, which is counted a feature of Saxon work in Norfolk. One would expect to find the W. corners of the nave built with flints if they were Saxon, but here we find diagonal buttresses have been added on the corners, probably when the walls were made higher.
There are six really enormous nave windows of the Perpendicular period, and some of the original stained glass of the 15th. century still survive. Notice the contrast between the very high pointed arches of the earlier Decorated period windows in the chancel and the relatively flat type of arch to the Perpendicular windows, which have the added strength of a relieving arch incorporating some bricks in the wall above each window.
The E window of the chancel has four lights with intersected tracery, c.1300, recently restored. The chancel has a pair of windows (N. & S.) with a pretty trefoil design in the top and another window with a quatrefoil above two very delicate ogee pointed lights.
When the tall nave windows, which occupy most of the wall, were added, buttresses were also needed. The buttresses on the S. side have flushwork on them which is a feature of the Perpendicular period.
INSIDE THE CHURCH. On entering Stody church you first see the most venerable door for the turret stairs then the crude tower arch, now so neatly whitewashed. The font is a massive one of Purbeck marble with shallow arches, very much weathered. The bowl itself is cracked in halves; it is set up on a plinth. This font is of a fairly well known Early English type and one wonders if it spent a part of its long history outside. It is at least 700 years old.
On the wall above the N door was discovered a medieval painting of St Christopher carrying the Christ child over the water. It was found during restoration work in 1902, and a drawing was made of it by the Rector, the Rev Fullagar, which can still be seen in the church. The painting occupied a great space - 8ft Sins, x 4ft 11ins.
Stody church was restored early in the last century. The good pews of solid oak are 1912, and the pulpit and choir stalls 1906. The most elegant hanging oil lamps have been converted to electricity.
The base of the tower is used as a vestry with a screen, dated 1903. There was a choir here who used to hang their surplices on hooks around the curved walls.
The roof is quite splendid especially with its vaulting where the transepts join the nave. It has angels with large wings holding up the roof timbers and there are decorative bosses at all the main intersections. Alternating with the angels there are shields carved with emblems of the passion, Thus in the chancel you will find:- NW. the ladder, spear and hyssop. NE. vinegar pot, cock and robe. SE. the five wounds. S W, three nails and crown of thorns.
THE STAINED GLASS. The nave N. Windows have in their tracery an interesting collection of fragments of stained glass, dating from the time when the windows were made, between 1460 & 1470. David King describes them in his book, "Stained Glass Tours around Norfolk Churches". The westernmost window contained kings and prophets of which St. Edmund can be identified by his arrow. The next window contains a series of apostles and also the coronation of the Virgin. In the E. window of the transept were female saints in a slightly different style. Parts have been identified of St. Catherine (wheel and sword)s St. Margaret (staff and dragon), St. Mary Magdalene (holding long hair) and St. Helen (cross).
One must try to imagine all the tracery lights around the church filled with pictures illustrating the Bible and Christian legends, when these large windows were first installed. A century later, these were all either broken or removed to emphasise that now we must pray "through Jesus Christ our Lord" and not through the mediation of saints, and that Jesus said "where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them". For more about our stained glass, please click here.
MEMORIALS. In the floor in the centre of the crossing is a large black floor slab which is very deeply cut with heraldry containing a fine dolphin embowed (i.e. arched), but no name is given. This is the crest for Symonds and was probably prepared well before the owner's death. William Symonds was buried here on 26th August 1689 and his wife nine months later.
The sanctuary has nicely carved communion rails and is paved with black and white marble. There is a large slab to a retired sea captain who has three escallops (sea shells) on his shield. The small crescent signifies that he was the second son of his father.