The church has a fourteenth-century west tower, and a wide aisleless nave with fifteenth-century windows and earlier walls. The chancel windows are of similar date, except for the nineteenth-century east window. 1 Of the large amount of glass in the church, only three shields of arms are original to it, but antiquarian sources tell us something of what has been lost. The rectory consisted of two medieties, one in the patronage of Beaufoe’s manor and the other of Belhous’s manor. In the mid-fifteenth century, the two patrons were the Prior of Pentney and Sir William Oldhall, and two rectors were appointed. In 1429, Thomas Fuller was collated to one of the medieties, probably that of Belhous manor; he died in 1446 and was buried in the College of St Mary in the Fields in Norwich. In 1434, John Medweby was appointed as rector to the other mediety by Thomas, Lord Morley, who had regained his half from the Prior of Pentney; Medweby died in 1444 and left money to glaze half of the east chancel window and to pave the whole of the chancel. In 1457, John Boset became rector of the Belhous mediety and in 1461 of that owned by the Prior of Pentney; it is likely that he was then rector of both. 2
Martin describes what was left of the original glazing of the east chancel window, and it would appear that it commemorated both halves of the rectory. 3 In the middle light of five was a broken donor inscription: '… capellani et omnium benefactorum suorum'. This may suggest that one of the rectors listed by Blomefield and Parkin was in fact a chaplain, perhaps a monk from Pentney appointed to serve the church, and probably Medwebe, in view of his legacy; alternatively the church may have had a chaplain as well as a rector, although there are no aisle for side chapels. In light five was another inscription: 'Orate pro anima domini [Tho]me Fuller de Merham', former rector of the other mediety; also in this light was the date 'Mlmo CCCCmo lx mo' (1460). One possibility is that the window was glazed by John Boset, vicar, after he had been appointed to both medieties in 1461, using the 40s. that Fuller had left to the church and the legacy left by Medwebe, and that the date was incomplete when recorded. Other rectors may also have been commemorated, as in the first light was another ‘Orate’. The window was devoted to the Virgin Mary, to whom the church is dedicated. Martin’s notes suggest that there was a series of standing figures in the top half of the main lights with Marian images below. All that remained of the former was part of a series of roundels with crowned initials at the top of each light, identifying the figures below. These were 1 (lost, probably ‘A’, as 5), 2 ‘MR’, 3 ‘IHC’, 4 ‘J’ and 5 ‘A’, indicating a central figure of Jesus, probably crucified, flanked by St Mary and John the Evangelist, with two Apostles in the outer lights; the first was identified as St Peter and so the other was probably St Paul. In the lower part of the central light were the words 'ancilla domini', from an Annunciation, and in the adjacent lights were Marian inscriptions: 'Sancta Maria Mater De[i]' (in light 2), and 'in honorem gloriose virginis Marie' (in light 4).
In the four three-light side windows of the chancel Martin saw a much defaced set of Apostles with their initials over them. On one of the south chancel windows was an incomplete donor inscription: 'Orate pro anima domini Johannis …'. Above this were four shields, with one above the other three. The upper shield was Gules a lion rampant ermine, for Sir William Oldhall, lord of Belhous manor, who presented to the church in 1446 and 1457 4 and may well have been the donor of the side chancel windows. The lower three shields were added in the sixteenth century. In the middle was Gules a chevron argent between 2 crosses potent in chief and an annulet in base or (Wotton); to the left was a shield with a broken dexter half impaling Wotton; and on the right was Wotton impaling Argent, 3 cinquefoils gules (Southwell). This latter shield commemorates the marriage of William Wotton, Baron of the Exchequer and lord of the manor of St Clere here in 1527, who married Anne, daughter of Richard Southwell of Woodrising. 5 Their son was John Wotton, presumably the person who gave this window. 6 The upper shield (Oldhall) is now in nVI 4b, that of Wotton alone in sIV 4b, and that of Wotton impaling Southwell in sV 4b. In the eighteenth century, another Wotton shield impaling Gules a saltire argent (Neville) was in a south nave window. 7 An unknown member of the Wotton family of North Tuddenham is recorded as having been the second husband of Mary Neville, daughter of George Neville, 3rd Baron of Abergavenny; Mary was born in 1524 and died between 1565 and 1576. 8 Finally, Martin saw in a south chancel window the shield of ‘Kipps’, an error for Skyppe, probably for Thomas Skyppe, lord and patron in 1621. 9 The fate of the original medieval glass apart from the surviving heraldry is made clear by Martin: ‘… all the windows beautiful and have been finely painted – but now much defaced and the Remaining glass is intended to be taken down (Mr. Youngs the Rector told me because as he pretends it hinders the light tho I never saw a more lightsome ch(urch) in my life)’. 10
The building was restored in 1868, when new glass costing £650 by Ward & Hughes was installed in several windows. According to Pevsner and Wilson the medieval glass to be seen in the church now was salvaged from a builder’s yard in the 1870s, but it would seem more probable that it was installed at the same time as the new windows were made. 11 Woodforde said that the glass was bought by the Revd Robert Barry, rector from 1851 to 1904, in East Dereham for half a guinea. Woodforde presumed that it came from a Norfolk church, and mentions two places recalled by local tradition, nearby Lyng, and Billingford near North Elmham. 12 However, neither church has windows of the appropriate period or shape for the glass brought to North Tuddenham. The substantial amounts of glass here date from various periods c.1420 – c.1450, so it is possible that the glass came from more than one church. Although Thomas Martin wrote that all the glass in the church was due to be removed, some of the eyelet fillings here appear to be in situ, and it cannot be ruled out that some of the other glass was not retained.
One possibility is that an earlier group of panels comes from the now-ruined church of Wiggenhall St Peter in West Norfolk. The evidence is circumstantial, but is perhaps more persuasive than the locations hitherto suggested. Firstly, the windows of the nave there have tracery lights whose shapes fit those of some of the glass at North Tuddenham. 13 Secondly, the style of the earlier group of panels is congruent with the building date for Wiggenhall St Peter of c.1421. 14 The remaining pieces of evidence relate to the iconography of the glass and its possible relationship with the church of St Peter, its patrons, and nearby King’s Lynn. Although the advowson of Wiggenhall St Peter was split between the priories of Shouldham and Crabhouse, the Bishop of Norwich nearly always presented to the church. In 1421, Richard de Wigenhale was appointed vicar by John Wakeryng, Bishop of Norwich 1416–1425; two years later, Wakeryng collated Edmund Blake. 15 At the time, Wakeryng was lord of the nearby town of King’s Lynn, known then as Bishop’s Lynn. Both monastic and episcopal saints (including St Leonard and St Edmund Rich, a bishop) occur in the earlier glass at North Tuddenham. The priory of St Leonard in Norwich was a cell of the cathedral priory and the appointment of its priors was confirmed by the bishop, 16 and St Edmund Rich could have been the name saint of the vicar from 1423. The presence of St Etheldreda may reflect the closeness of Wiggenhall St Peter to the diocese of Ely. St George is prominent in the earlier glass at North Tuddenham: there is a main-light panel with two scenes from his life, a quatrefoil with another image of his fight with the dragon, and his shield, paired as so often with that of St Michael. 17 Henry V died in 1422; he had been much devoted to the cult of St George, and bishop Wakeryng had been a loyal servant of the king, having been Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1415–1416 and a royal delegate to the Council of Constance. When Wakeryng died in 1425, he was buried next to the altar of St George in Norwich Cathedral. It may, however, be the Life of St Margaret Series that gives the closest indication of a West Norfolk origin.
None of these possible links proves a connection with Wiggenhall St Peter, but one aspect of the glass does point rather more strongly to a connection with that church, or at the very least to a church near King’s Lynn. In the panel depicting St Margaret with Olybrius’s squire (wI 1a), the squire wears a small shield on his belt bearing Argent a chevron between three annulets sable. This coat appears on a seal of John Glemham of Suffolk in 1403, and also on a seal of John Manne, probably in Henry V’s reign. Glemham is mentioned in several early fifteenth-century documents, including one recording a royal commission in 1415, when he was instructed, with others, ‘to inquire concerning divers dissensions, discords and debates which have continued for no small time and still do daily between the mayor and certain of the burgesses of King’s Lynn and certain other burgesses and the commonalty of the town, since the king, desiring to pacify these, has caused certain persons of the said parties to be called before him and his council very often but has been unable to induce the parties to compromise, negotiate and make final agreement on the dissensions in a way which seemed suitable to the king and council or to obtain true knowledge of the cause, origin and continuance thereof from either party’. 18 If the shield on the St Margaret panel suggests a connection with John Glemham, then Olybrius’s squire in the first St Margaret panel may be interpreted as John Glemham himself and the now-missing figure of Olybrius as the king. A case can also be argued that the figure of St Margaret was here intended to be seen as a personification of King’s Lynn, which was closely associated with that saint. The parish church there was dedicated to her, and the ‘eels’ of the town’s coat of arms (Azure 3 conger-eels’ heads erased and erect or, in the mouth of each a cross-crosslet fitchée of the last) may allude to the dragon that appears with St Margaret with her cross-staff piercing its mouth. 19 An identification of St Margaret with the town may have been made in order to comment retrospectively on the long-running dispute (between a group of former mayors, some of the citizens, and the king), which was resolved by Bishop Wakeryng of Norwich in 1420 in a compromise agreement, whereby governance of the town reverted to its original form, but with the addition of a second chamber. This commentary can be understood from the texts spoken by the characters (on speech labels) in the events depicted in the glass. The labels will first need to be reconstructed and analyzed.
A lost Latin vita can be posited as the source for some of these texts, which are in Latin, but it will be useful to consider them alongside two other sources: a lost window formerly in Heydon Church, and the Middle English life of St Margaret included by Osbern Bokenham in his Legendys of Hooly Wummen. Blomefield and Parkin describe the Heydon window thus: ‘… the legend of St Margaret in a south window. A man on horseback. Ite festinanter et apprehendite illam. Hic Margareta flagellatur et per crines suspendatur. She says, Speravi in te Domine, non confundar in eternum. Hic Margareta decollatur, &c’ 20 . Bokenham’s life of St Margaret was begun in 1443, somewhat later than the North Tuddenham glass. 21 The texts in the North Tuddenham St Margaret panels are here set out (with abbreviations expanded and errors silently corrected), together with the equivalent passages from Bokenham and relevant material from Heydon.
wI 1a. Olybrius’s squire invites St Margaret to follow him
1. (St Margaret) ‘Miserere Domine anime mee’ (‘O Lord, have mercy on my soul’); Bokenham: ‘Haue mercy, lord ihesu, vpon me’.
2. (Squire) ‘Veni domino loquere meo’ (‘Come and speak with my lord’); Bokenham: no equivalent
3. (St Margaret) ‘Compactio non potest esse’ (‘There can be no coming together’); Bokenham: no equivalent.
wI 1b. Olybrius questions St Margaret
1. (Olybrius) ‘Ex quo genere es? Libera (an) ancilla?’ (‘Of what social status are you? Free or a servant?’);
Bokenham: ‘Sey me, damysel, of what kyn thou art, And whethyr thou be bonde or ellys fre.’
2. (Margaret) ‘Libera non solum sed Christiana’ (‘Not only free, but a Christian’); Bokenham: ‘Seruage in me had neuere no part, For cristene I am sekyr, sere, quod she.’
nV C4. St Margaret is scourged
Heydon: ‘Hic Margareta flagellatur et per crines suspendatur’ (‘Here Margaret is scourged and hung by her hair’); Bokenham: ‘He comaundyd hyr be hange in the eyr heye, And to betyn wyth yerdys …’.
(Margaret) ‘… in eternum’ (‘… for ever’); Heydon: ‘Speravi in te Domine, non confundar in eternum’ (‘I have hoped in you, Lord; I shall not be confounded for ever.’); Bokenham: ‘In the, Lord, I truste, and in thy mercy. Let me not confoundyd be, lord, endelessly.’ 22
The Heydon window clearly combined speech scrolls and tituli; Woodforde thought that some small fragments of inscription at Welborn, where remnants of the glass installed at North Tuddenham were later installed, may be from tituli from the St Margaret window. 23
The texts as they survive at North Tuddenham can now be interrogated for possible layers of meaning. Most telling is the fact that in the first panel, the second and third of the speech banderolles are not paralleled in the life in Bokenham, which otherwise provides very close parallels for both North Tuddenham and Heydon; neither do the banderolles appear in other vitae consulted. 24 Their inclusion here can be interpreted as another example of the political allusions that have been found elsewhere in fifteenth-century Norfolk glass. 25 It was suggested above that one of St Margaret’s functions was that she was intended to be understood as a personification of King’s Lynn. When the squire says to St Margaret ‘Come and speak with my lord’, is this an allusion to Henry V’s demand, quoted in the document above, that ‘certain persons of the said parties’ be called before him? Further, does Margaret’s reply (‘There can be no coming together’) allude to Lynn’s refusal to adhere to the composition (compactio in medieval Latin) that had been made a few years previously, considering that the final settlement brokered by Bishop Wakeryng returned the town’s governance to the pre-composition status quo? 26 The disputes in King’s Lynn, as in many late-medieval towns, were about the freedom of the citizens (often divided into factions based on wealth and status) to govern themselves as they wished. In the light of this, Margaret’s assertive claims of status and freedom in the second panel can be seen as further allusion to political events in King’s Lynn.
While it is not possible to prove that the earlier glass at North Tuddenham came from Wiggenhall St Peter, the allusions in the glass would be entirely compatible with such a provenance. The church is less than five miles from the centre of King’s Lynn, the dispute had been settled by Bishop Wakeryng in 1420, and the following year the chancel was being rebuilt and a new vicar was appointed by the bishop. As has been noted, other aspects of the iconography, such as the accent on St George, are congruent with what is known of Wakeryng’s interests, and the shapes of the some of the panels demand a tracery of the type seen in the side windows of the nave and former aisle at Wiggenhall St Peter.
The earlier glass at North Tuddenham discussed here can therefore be dated to c.1420 –c.1430 on the basis of the suggested political allusions, the building dates of Wiggenhall St Peter, and style. It is not possible to ascribe other glass to this earlier group with certainty, as the south nave windows at North Tuddenham are very similar in shape to the nave and reused aisle windows at Wiggenhall St Peter, and some panels could have fitted either, and so some of the glass may be original to North Tuddenham (as was suggested above), although the stylistic homogeneity of the earlier group suggests a common origin. The St Margaret glass seems clearly linked to a provenance near King’s Lynn, and the St George panel and allied fragments is very similar. Several of the tracery-light figures would fit the Wiggenhall St Peter windows and are suitable in subject matter for the patronage of that church. The later glass at North Tuddenham can only be dated on style, to c.1430 – c.1450, with one or two exceptions. Further detailed analysis may clarify the group ascribed to Wiggenhall St Peter more precisely.
The glass was restored in the workshop by G. King & Son 1965–83. 27 Further work was carried out in 2005 by the Canterbury Cathedral Studio under Sebastian Strobl. Much of the glass was examined by the author on the workbench in December 1981 and December 1983.