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Martham Church ~ Font, Organ, Parish Chest, Burraway Inscriptions & Banners

THE FONT.  A fine 15th century seven sacrament font stands at the west end of the nave.  Standing facing east you will find that the panel in front of you is of Ordination (with the newly ordained priest kneeling before the bishop).  Moving to you right you will find panels around the bowl depicting  The Last Judgement , (with angels blowing shawms), Marriage, Holy Communion, Holy Unction (the anointing of a person near to death), Baptism, Confirmation (with the Bishop wearing his mitre), and Penance (with the devil running away)   Around the stem are carved figures including the four doctors of the Western Church. Seven sacrament fonts were sometimes placed in churches where there had been a strong influence of the heresy of Lollardy, in order to emphasise to people exactly what the Church was teaching about the sacraments and was considered essential to the living of a good Christian life.  Margery Baxter of Martham was a well known heretic.  She did not believe that the sacraments of the church were necessary for redemption.  This created quite a sensation in the Parish and beyond.


(In 1428 she was sent for trial at Norwich, found guilty and sentenced ‘to receive four floggings at the Parish Church on four successive Sundays and two more in a market place and to present herself with other penitents to do ‘solemn penance in Norwich Cathedral on the next Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday.’  This did not stop her expressing her opinions, however, she and her husband left Martham to live in Norwich.)


The ORGAN, built by Forster and Andrews of Hull in 1871 was removed from the base of the tower in 1999 and moved to its present position at the west end of the north aisle.  It is a tracker action organ - one of the finest to be found in a country church, with two manuals and pedals and 14 stops.  


THE PARISH CHEST with its lid carved from a single tree trunk is thought to be older than the church.  It was until recently, used to store the Parish Documents and valuables in secure keeping, however these have now been deposited at the Archive Centre at Norwich.

THE BURRAWAY INSCRIPTIONS are on two grave slabs that once lay on the floor of the tower and were mostly covered by the organ until it was moved in 1999.  The slabs now lean against the south wall of the south aisle.  Christopher Burraway died aged 59, on 18 October 1730; he was a churchwarden and his name is inscribed on one of the bells in the tower.  His wife, Alice Burraway, died aged 76, on 12 February 1729.  The strange wording on Alice’s grave slab has puzzled many in later centuries.  It reads:


“And their lyes Alice who by hir life was my sister, my mistres, my mother and my wife.  Dyed  feb. ye 12. 1729 aged 76 years”.  


In 1874, Mr James Harrison of Great Yarmouth did an enormous amount of research in parish registers, endeavouring to find an explanation and concluded that Christopher Burraway (the son of Christopher) was born at Potter Heigham about 1671.  His mother Mary née Lane, after being widowed married Gregory Johnson of Martham in 1674.


(Alice’s first husband was William Ryall whom she married in 1679 at Norwich Cathedral.  Alice’s second husband was Gregory Johnson, a churchwarden at Martham whom she married in 1693.  He was buried at Martham on 28th June 1700.  After being twice widowed, she married Christopher the stepson of her second husband in 1702 at Norwich Cathedral.  A rather different story appears on cards on the bookstall.  Research is still ongoing to establish the full facts.)


THE BANNERS which hang on the nave columns were created for the Millennium celebrations.   The subjects were researched and chosen by a group of parishioners who also sewed, quilted and hung them.  Local artist Rachel Thomas-Dee was the designer.  On the north side they demonstrate significant events in the Christian story of Martham Parish and Church, starting with Christian Origins and moving on to the Celtic Saint Fursey and Burgundian Bishop Felix both of whom had missions in East Anglia at the same time.

Two women of Martham, Olive de Raveningham and St. Blide are depicted as is the Martham Mason whose work can be traced in other Norfolk churches.  On the south side are the banners depicting the Reformation with The English Bible and Book of Common Prayer, the Victorian Restoration and finally the 20thcentury represented by the ecumenical movement, the growth of lay leadership and the ordination of women.

Martham church organ Font and Millenium gallery the medieval chest 19th century chest The Christian origins banner (1) The saints banner The MU banner Victorian banner The women of Martham banner