St Peter Mancroft, a bulky church with an excellent tower and spire, has the advantages of being generally open, centrally placed by the marketplace, and having a relatively good crop of memorial panels with minor sculptural decoration inside, together with a couple of interesting pictures. The whole edifice dates from the mid-15th Century, and has undergone little change, so has a unity of style and structure. Much of the glass seems to be original.
We start by noting some of the memorials. The most ambitious is also one of the earliest, a stone bust wearing skullcap, ruff and voluminous cape, with an expression severe and humourless, one hand holding a book, the other resting on a skull.
Nearby, a panel to Dorothy Browne, who died just three years later, a rather baroque panel with leaves and drapes about a central shield, supported on a classical bracket surmounted by a cherubic head with large wings.
From the early 18th century, we may note the classical panel to John Mackerell (d.1723), with four winged heads beneath, and decorative fruit and a vineleaves, and three memorial panels identified as by local sculptors. Earliest and most interesting, the Edward Coleburne memorial (d.1730) by Robert Page, whom we met in the Cathedral with his plaque to John Moore – this one is less elaborate, but contains similar elements – a pale panel with very dark marble pillars supported on heavy brackets, curved pedimental shape above, and between the brackets below, three cherubic heads with wings, here above the testament, in the Cathedral below. The Hill Memorial (1725/35) with one little head is by George Storey of Norwich, and James Barrett of Norwich did the Augustine Curtis Memorial, with a single central pillar in front of a triangular shape evoking an obelisk, with hooded, draped cherubs emerging to each side, with garlanded panels below showing sheep, and at the base, a little skull chewing on a bat wing.
Notable from later in the 18th Century are the Addey memorial, with 3 heads, and some small beast, now headless but perhaps a stag, above; the John and Sarah Smith memorial, an elaborate classical panel in several colours of marble, with the usual 3 heads augmented by two reclining cherubs, with skull and some wisp of cloth, perhaps a kerchief, or embelmatic of a shroud, side pillars exaggeratedly fattened into pot shapes, a coat of arms and a shell; and the asymmetric panel to Elizabeth Dersley (d.1756), where the text is written on a veil held up by a cherubic head and a whole cherub, who also supports the coat of arms. An original composition.
The Patteson memorial is unornamented classical, the Starling memorial another one in mixed marbles, and some limited decoration including a pot on top; another colourful one is the modest Ives memorial. Finally, we must note the metal ornamental ironwork staff or banner to George Lovick Coleman and Charles Winter, both sheriff and mayor in the middle of the 19th Century. This curious thing carries several coats of arms, a crown, and crude paintings of angels. Most intriguing.
An unexpected treat is the picture of Moses on Pisgah, by no less than W. B. Richmond RA, presented in his memory by his daughter and son in law, H. C. and E. J. Meyrick – the latter was vicar at the church. An almost Fantin-Latour paleness to the figure and cloud surrounds. A second painting, Christ in the Temple, is by a painter unfamiliar to me, H. R. Mileham. And the third painting, rather obscurely lit over the west end door, is of the Deliverance of St Peter from prison, and is by the notable 18th Century painter Charles Catton, an early Royal Academician, native of Norwich, and coach painter to Royalty.
We end with the two superior exterior sculptures, nicely preserved in their niches – St Peter, with long sword and bible with clasps, with particularly strong face, and Mary and Christ, with naturalistic drapery and good pose of the infant.
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