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  ASHBY  WALK?   In Handbook



Click on the above title to see a plan of the churchyard, names on and pictures of each gravestone, plus a family history of each incumbent.



Rector       Rev Christopher Ellis


Organists   Arnold Miller 

                  David Catchpole


Chair Rev              Christopher Ellis

Lay Chair               Arnold Miller

Church Wardens   Philippa Grant 

Hon Secretary      Eve Redden

Hon Treasurer      Margaret Burgess

The church is a grade II* listed building and is one of five churches in the united benefice of Thurton part of the Bramerton group of churches. Ashby St Mary was probably the location of a Roman siting post and is listed in the Little Domesday Book. The church is a mixture of mediaeval styles of architecture having been enlarged, restored or 'improved' over the centuries and may be the location of the Roman siting post and is probably built on Saxon foundations.

The core of the nave is Norman (1066 - 1190) and probably the original small Norman church extended east to the old brown carrstone Quoins. The external flint masonry is stratified and one of the Norman 'slit' windows survives. The greatest legacy from the Norman craftsmen is seen in the beautiful south Norman doorway with its very old door with massive lock which still remains: note two orders of colonnettes and Mass dials etc.

The original Norman Church was extended by the addition of a new c hancel during the Early English period (1190 - 1280). In the north wall are two early English/Norman lancet windows and a priests doorway in the south wall. The elegant Bell tower was built in the 15th century with a small staircase turret. Note the gargoyles forming the drainage from the roof. The masonry of the porch contains Tudor brickwork which protects the south Norman doorway and is late 15th or early 16th century. Inside the church the original wall plates which supported the mediaeval roof are still evident. Although the tower arch has been lowered, the two fine lion corbels upon which the original arch rests can still be seen. A considerable amount of 17th century woodwork still remains, the outstanding feature is the handsome communion rail. The ancient and unusual alms box which has three locks may also date from this period.

The font is probably 17th century with a Jacobean cover and the bench ends are 16th or 17th century. In the sanctuary is a mediaeval aumbry with a more modern door and a mediaeval roundel dated 1604 in the more modern east window. On the outside of the east wall are indications of an original 3 lite window. The ledger slabs on the east wall which list the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments and Creed are late 17th century.

There are three bells in the tower which are hung for swing chiming. The oldest tenor bell is mediaeval and dates from 1424/1513 by Richard Brasyer. The others are dated 1631 by W & A Brend and 1708 by Thomas Newman. They were all refurbished to ring on Easter day 2009; the first time all three bells had been heard in over a hundred years. The chamber organ was probably built around 1790/1830 and was rebuilt in 1866 by JW Walker. In 1873 the organ was moved from Godstone in Surrey to Horstead Hall in Norfolk. The organ was acquired by Ashby St Mary in about 1912. The organ was completely refurbished in 2009 revealing a beautiful mahogany case (visible for the first time since 1866) to complement the newly gilded pipes.

The coloured glass window in the south wall is a copy of 'The Light Of The World' by Holman Hunt. See the CHURCH section for further details about this. In the east window is a Swiss/Flemish roundel with angel and shields 16/17th century. The church plate at Ashby St Mary is an Elizabethan chalice and paten dated 1568/9 plus a large pewter flagon probably Jacobean (not in church).   The baptism and burial registers date from 1620 and the marriages register dates from 1766. We can readily trace rectors back to the 13th century.

A sketch of Ashby St Mary church is displayed next to the vestry door and was completed originally as part of 'Views of the Churches in Norfolk, illustrative of Blomefield's history of that county, from original drawings by R Ladbrooke Vol. 1 — Norwich printed & published by IB Ladbkooke Feb 1823'. This particular copy was printed by Rowney & Foster in 1871.

(With acknowledgement to parishioner Arnold Miller)


Click HERE to see a very detailed history of each of the four WW1 servicemen named on our War Memorial
It's a fine piece of historical work researched, compiled and produced by parish councillor Terry Kitt, and adapted for display on this website by Ashby's webmaster.


Edward Birkbeck must have been a thoughtful man. Not only did he remember his wife's birthday, he actually did something about it two months beforehand.  Sadly two months was not enough for his idea, which was to give his wife a pipe organ in their house in Godstone, Surrey. One of the best organ builders of the day, J W Walker, did offer to have something ready by April 15th 1866, which they achieved by rebuilding an older instrument.  
Seven years later the family moved to Norfolk, and, at a cost of £9, the organ was put on the train to Norwich and re-erected at the new family home, Horstead Hall.

Here it remained for nearly forty years, until presumably the organist had died and the remaining family no longer wanted an organ. In 1912 it arrived at Ashby church where it has been for the last 97 years.

After 143 years of regular use, and nothing beyond tuning, a few repairs and occasional cleaning, it is hardly a surprise that the essential workings were worn out. Rust, rot, and mice had all taken their toll.
Several firms of organ builders were invited to assess the task of restoration. Their inspections told us that originally the organ dated from between 1790 and 1830. It was said to be 'a very special unspoilt instrument' and 'an organ from the end of the classical tradition...a more or less complete historic organ'. It originally had two manuals, but no pedals. A fine Cuban mahogany case had been painted over, firstly with an 'oak' effect and later in 'pine', almost certainly to fit in with the houses where it was installed.
There was some feeling a hundred years or so ago that it would not be seemly for church organs to sound too bright, and a sombre tone characterises church instruments from that period. As an instrument from a secular background, used for home entertainment, the Ashby organ has always had a warm and bright cheerfulness about it. Now that the mahogany has been stripped of the Victorian paint and the pipes regilded to their original splendour, the organ adds a real 'wow factor' to entering the building. And it now sounds even better.  Richard Bower's Norfolk firm beat four others to the contract and the result is a triumph. Let's hope it does another 143 years...

(With acknowledgement to parishioner Arnold Miller)

2015 - 2016
Two momentous occurences saw the commencement of the planned refurbishment programme of Ashby church.

A generous anonymous donation by a resident of Ashby St Mary allowed the refurbishment of the 17th Century ledger slabs on the inner east wall of the church.
The ledgers were embedded in the east wall of the church in the late 17th Century. The ledgers show the Lords Prayer, The Ten Commandments and The Creed.
During the Victorian Period they were embellished with plaster surrounds.  The plaster surrounds were repaired and painted and the letters on the ledgers gilded.  As a result the ledger slabs now form a frame to the east window and altar.
When the ledgers were unveiled a member of the congregation remarked “They have brought east end of the church to life”.
In addition as the result of a further anonymous donation by an Ashby St Mary resident, it was possible to provide a new Church Notice Board. The donation paid for the materials and parishioner David Godfrey kindly offered to make the Notice Board free of charge.   
The results are shown below.
Many thanks to David Godfrey and the generous anonymous donors.


Below shows the exterior and interior of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ashby St Mary as well as some of its endearing features.

                Church in the snow                                                 Entrance
           (click HERE for full size)                                  (click HERE for full size)

         Church (south west)                              Church (south east)                            Church plaque            
     (click HERE for full size)                     (click HERE for full size)               (click HERE for full size) 

              Church over field                                                   Norman door
          (click HERE for full size)                                     (click HERE for full size)   

            Church tower                                Organ - pre-restoration                 Organ - post restoration
     (click HERE for full size)                   (click HERE for full size)              (click HERE for full size)


             Church sketch                                      Church from the alter                           
      (click HERE for full size)                        (click HERE for full size)


     Stained glass window
                                Church pulpit                               In east window
  "The Light Of The World"                   (click HERE for full size)               (click HERE for full size)
  (click HERE for full size)

      See below for details


As a young man Holman Hunt shook the artistic world when he exhibited his remarkable painting 'The Light Of The World' in 1854.
This great pre-Raphaelite painting was inspired by verse 20 of the 3rd chapter of the Book of The Revelation of St John the Divine. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him, and will sup with him, and he with me'. It caused a sensation in both the religious and artistic establishments being both attacked and admired. Ruskin described it as 'one of the very noblest works of sacred art ever produced in this or any age.'
During the 20 years that followed photographs and engravings of 'The Light Of The World' achieved vast circulation, while the original was housed in the collection of a Mr Combe of Oxford. On the death of Mr Combe the painting was presented to Keble college, Oxford. However Holman Hunt was not happy with the way that Keble College kept the picture, and decided to paint the subject over again so that it might be made available for the world to see.
The new version was twice as large as the 1854 version and was first displayed in 1904. It was sent on exhibition around the world, and finally was hung in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, where it can now be seen to this day hanging on the south side of the nave. The 1854 version today can still be seen at Keble College, Oxford. There is a further version to be seen in Manchester City Art Gallery.


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