Cat no. 1270

A Passion for Churches

Running time49:47 Colour Sound 1974 Norfolk, Norfolk

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John Betjeman visits churches in the diocese of Norwich.



The opening scenes show John Betjeman in a boat on the River Bure. He recalls being eight or nine years old when, on a similar trip with his parents, he saw the outline of a Church tower against the sky. That, he maintains, was the beginning of his passion for churches.The first item of the film shows interior scenes of the Church of St. John the Baptist at Bressingham. Here there is a hand turned mechanical organ. John Betjeman plays this. There is a collage of shots showing Broadland Churches before John Betjeman visits St. Margaret's Church at Cley-next-the-Sea. Here he highlights the porch, built in 1430, and the sundial, which he describes as having been 'slapped on coarsely.'

At Knapton the film shows the painted carvings in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul and then the wood carvings in St. Botolph's Church at Trunch. Here a Christening is filmed. At All Saints Church, Mattishall the film shows a 'Sunday School' that takes place on a Wednesday afternoon. The vicar teaches the young children of the parish about the parable of the lost sheep. He walks out of the Church with the children singing a song. Pauline Plummer is filmed restoring the chancel screen at St. Helen's Church, Ranworth. There are shots of modern Church paintings and of medieval stained glass windows.

Betjeman visits Norwich, viewing the City and its Cathedral from Mousehold Heath. There are shots of Elm Hill. Exterior shots of Churches in Norwich include the 'forget-me-not' clock on the tower of St. Michael-at-Plea, St. George's Tombland and St. Peter Mancroft. At the Cathedral the annual festival of the Mothers' Union take place in the cloister. The Bishop of Norwich, Maurice Wood, hosts the event. He is seen investing the new vicar in St. Andrew's Church, Holt. St. Mary's Church and the rectory at Great Snoring feature. The rectory is a 'Tudor palace' built in 1525. John Betjeman explains that it is the practice to sell these old rectories and to replace them with a modern house. There is a shot of one of these modern rectories.

At Weston Longville there is an exterior shot of All Saints' Church and a still showing a portrait of Parson Woodforde. In contrast with the life of Parson Woodforde, the present vicar sits in his study, typing the parish magazine. The Parochial Church Council leave St. Andrew's Church at Letheringsett and enter the village hall for their meeting. The secretary reads the minutes of the last meeting on 29th January 1974. There are close up shots of the PCC members, including Lady Harrod. At South Raynham there is a garden fete to raise funds for the Church tower. This takes place in the garden of Mrs. Le Strange. The Vicar gives a speech and there are shots of the fete. John Betjeman collects the key to visit the Church of St. Mary Beare in the Wensum Valley. Inside he highlights the oak woodwork, the altar piece, the pulpit and the box pews.

At Felbrigg, where the Church is in the park of Felbrigg Hall there are interior and exterior scenes of St. Margaret's Church. There include people brass rubbing, probably elsewhere. A marriage ceremony is filmed. Bell ringers feature. Billy Webb explains the attraction of bell ringing. There are shots of the Norfolk Countryside and of John Betjeman walking across the marsh to St. Benets Abbey. At Ditchingham he visits the Anglian Convent of All Hallows. There are exterior scenes of the Convent and grounds. Inside two nuns make communion wafers. Nuns are on the lawn talking and reading. Some are gardening. Others tend the chickens and the bees.

A steam train on the North Norfolk Railway takes John Betjeman through the countryside. At Walsingham he is filmed at the site of the old Walsingham Station that is now an Orthodox Church. There are scenes of the village and he retells the story of the Lady of the Manor who believed she saw the Virgin Mary in 1061. There are shots of the ruined Abbey and then he visits the Church of Our Lady Of Walsingham. This is a '1930s red brick Romanesque' place. The interior shows candles lit. Pilgrims take the Holy waters and then the procession leaves the Church carrying an effigy on a litter. John Betjeman recalls similar events he has witnessed in Sicily and Malta. In the village centre, the pilgrims board their coaches and mini buses. One of these is from the Church of St. Alban the Martyr, Birmingham.

John Betjeman arrives at The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Sandringham in a vintage car. Inside he shows the pulpit and the Bible. The Church, he explains is Edwardian. There is an altar screen donated by an American, Rodman Wannemaker, and a statute of St. George by Sir Alfred Gilbert. At Booton John Betjeman looks at the Victorian pinnacles. There are more shots of stained glass windows. The Choir rehearse in the rectory at Martham. Upstairs Father Cooling, the Rector, is playing with his train set. There are exterior shots of Wymondham Abbey, showing the twin towers, one in tact and one ruined. Inside the John Betjeman highlights the East Wall built by Sir Ninian Comper, a friend of his. Interior gold decoration in a Church in Suffolk, also built by Comper, features. The altar hangings were bought from Spain. At the Church of St. Michael and All Saints, Flordon, the priest rings the bell to call the flock to Matins. In a rather sad scene, no-one attends and he says Matins to an empty Church. There are shots of modern houses in the village.

Back in Norwich John Betjeman looks at some of the redundant Churches and the uses found for them. The first featured is St. Benedicts, reduced to a tower. St. Edmund's, Fishergate is used as a store for a show factory. St. Lawrence's is an artist's studio. St. Mary, Coslany, where John Sell Cotman was baptised and John Crome married, is a store for a charity. St. Helens became a hospital. There are interior scenes of the upper floor of the chancel. Some features of derelict Churches are shown.Out at sea the film visits the Smiths Knoll lightship with the Rev. Maurice Chant, Chaplin to the Mission to Seamen at Great Yarmouth. Canon Blackburn, Vicar of Ranworth and Rector of the Norfolk Broads, visits holiday makers on their boats, handing out leaflets of about a service that will take place there.

There are shots of a rough sea at Ness Point, Lowestoft at dawn on Easter morning. Here, at the most eastern part of the United Kingdom, an ecumenical service, led by the band of the Salvation Army, holds the first Easter service.The penultimate scenes feature the Bede women at Castle Rising. The Warden rings the bell to call them to worship. The final scenes are of people leaving their houses and cottages, presumably to attend Church.

Background Information:

Sir Alfred Gilbert made the Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus

Featured People:

Canon Blackburn, Vicar of Ranworth and Rector of the Norfolk Broads; The Rev. Maurice Chant, Chaplin to the Mission to Seamen at Great Yarmouth; Father Cooling, Rector of Martham Sir Ninian Comper; The Rt. Rev. Maurice Wood, Bishop Of Norwich; John Betjeman, presenter; Rodman Wannemaker; Sir Alfred Gilbert; The Vicar of Mattishall; Lady Harrod; The Vicar of South Raynham; Mrs. Le Strange Parson Woodford; Pauline Plumber, artist; The Rector of Weston Longville; Billy Webb, bell ringer

Featured Organisations:

The Church Of England; Letheringsett Parochial Church Council; The Salvation Army

Featured Events:

The Annual Festival of The Mothers' Union, 1974

Featured Buildings:

The Church of St. John the Baptist, Bressingham; The Almshouse, Castle Rising; St. Lawrence's Church, Castle Rising ; St. Margaret's Church, Cley-next-the-Sea ; All Hallows Convent, Ditchingham; St. Margaret's Church, Felbrigg; The Church of St. Michael and All Saints, Flordon; St. Mary's Church, Great Snoring ; St. Andrew's Church, Holt ; The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Knapton; St. Andrew's Church, Letheringsett; The Rectory, Martham ; All Saints Church, Mattishall ; The Church of St. Michael-at-Plea, Norwich; St. George's Tombland, Norwich; St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich; A Passion For Churches.St. Benedicts Church, Norwich; The Church of St. Edmund's, Fishergate; St. Lawrence's Church, Norwich; The Church of St. Mary, Coslany, Norwich; St. Helens Church, Norwich; St. Helen's Church, Ranworth ; The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Sandringham ; St. Martin's Church, South Raynham; St. Botolph's Church, Trunch; The Church of Our Lady Of Walsingham; The Russian Orthodox Church, Walsingham; All Saints' Church, Weston Longville; The Church of St. Mary Beare ; Felbrigg Hall Norwich Cathedral; The Rectory, Great Snoring; Walsingham Abbey; St. Benet's Abbey; Wymondham Abbey


Edward Mirzoff

John McGlasham

John Betjeman

Edward Roberts

Simon Wilson; Mike Billing

John Betjeman

Christine Smith (researcher)

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