St Gervase and St Protase, Little Plumstead, Norfolk
Photographs taken in February 2005.
Norfolk has three churches with unique dedications. At Bixley, Woodbastwick and here, the church is the only Anglican parish church in England with this particular dedication. Completely by chance, back in February 2005 I visited all three of them for the first time on the same day. St Wandregesilius at Bixley had recently burned down, but Woodbastwick's church of St Fabian and St Sebastian was and is open every day. Here at Little Plumstead, Gervase and Protase were twins, and early martyrs in Rome, probably at about the same time as St Valentine, and with as much likelihood of ever really having existed. I assume that as at Bixley and Woodbastwick the use of their names as a dedication here was the enthusiasm of a 19th Century Anglo-Catholic rector.
There's no way of knowing the current positioning of Little Plumstead parish in the Anglican firmament, because this church is always locked, every time I have ever visited, and there is no keyholder notice. I've tried ringing the rector and churchwardens, but none of them ever seems to be in. Of course, it is still possible to wander around the graveyard, which is pleasantly overcast by pine trees, and almost entirely surrounded by the grounds of Little Plumstead Hall. This was for many years a secure hospital for people with learning disabilities, housing the famous Broadland Clinic, but most of the site is now sold off for housing. So Little Plumstead has become steadily more suburban, and this little corner will have to hold its own.
The exterior of nave and chancel is that of a rather dour restoration, but if you look closely there are some points of interest. The south doorway has a billet hood moulding, showing that it is Norman, and while the tower is also Norman. I think it is safe to say that the nave was built before the tower, for rather than the walls of the nave conforming to the round outer wall of the tower, the tower has been built against a flat wall. A squint right through the tower allows you a view of the altar at the other end of the building, as with several other round towered churches in this area.
A gravestone immediately to the south-east of the porch is to the splendidly named Moses Boast, who I assume was a burly, bearded giant of a man, perhaps a blacksmith. Perhaps he was the churchwarden here once. Inside his church I know there are monuments, a brass, some continental glass, all of which we would love to see, but this appears not to be be possible. A planter to the left of the entrance to the porch appears to be an 18th Century font. Perhaps it was replaced at the time of the 19th Century restoration, and put outside to act as a holy water stoup. If so, later generations no longer needed it, and so it was turned to a more prosaic use. Whatever, it is an odd thing to see.