Last time I visited St. Michael’s Church in Swanton Abbott it was closed, but fortunately on a sunny July Sunday afternoon, it had been partly opened.
Only the chancel area was open to visitors and the nave was closed off, meaning that the church’s Priest Door was brought into use. I didn’t get the impression that the church had been inundated with visitors, but it was useful that it had been opened up and clear signage installed.
The chancel end of the church, with this grand wooden arch-braced roof dating to 1953.
The interior is bright and well proportioned, with the fifteenth-century font being visible at the back of this photo.
The rood screen was mauled about between 1906 and 1913, with the position of the paintings changed and no-one is now quite sure what they were like before the rector had his DIY moment. There’s some beautiful visual imagery here though, it must have inspired at least some of the congregation when it was originally installed.
As mentioned, we entered through the Priest’s Door in the chancel, although with good intentions. In 1851, Robert Fisk, James Dyball and George Green entered the church through that very same door, but not with the same good intentions. Numerous books on one pew were destroyed and the matter went to court, with initially a decision that the men weren’t guilty. Then something changed and Allen Hook (the son of the parish clerk) found himself charged with perjury and an appeal was accepted with the three men facing trial again. This time the magistrates in Aylsham sentenced the three men to six weeks in prison, with hard labour to add to the mix.