St Margaret of Antioch’s, Cley-next-the-Sea

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Important stained glass
Grade I

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This splendid church, featured in Pevsner and in Simon Jenkins' 1000 Best Churches, largely dates from the early part of the 14th century and stands on the site of an earlier building, across the valley from Wiveton Church. In the Middle Ages the valley between the two was a prosperous harbour. It was used by coastal and foreign craft and brought considerable wealth to the area. Carvings, niches and pinnacles feature in abundance. The ruined south transept has particularly opulent Decorated window tracery. Worked ceased due to the Black Death in 1349 and the subsequent lack of craftsmen meant that it never restarted and the Perpendicular style adopted (see the west window and south aisle windows, and south porch). Step into the south porch and look up at the bosses. One features a fox running off with a chicken, chased by a woman and another shows two devils beating a man's bare backside. A beautiful Decorated cusped doorway leads into a church of almost cathedral-like proportions. The vast west window and large cinquefoil windows of the clerestory flood the interior with light. There is a fine Seven Sacrament font. These are predominantly found in East Anglia, and around thirty survive. They date from the late 15th to early 16th centuries and were installed to reinforce Catholic orthodoxy. A carving of each sacrament adorns each font, and the eighth panel varies in its design. The sacraments are: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist (Mass), confession, marriage, ordination and extreme unction (the last rites). The eighth panel at St Margaret's Church is lost. Don't miss the carvings between the arches of the arcade showing an imp, St George and the dragon, a lion with a bone, an angel playing the cymbals and a musician. In the chancel are six misericords carved with shields. A medieval mensa stone lies beneath the altar. Explore the wonderful range of 18th century headstones in the churchyard.

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