Brettenham, St Andrew

St Andrew's is situated in a very quiet rural setting within the small hamlet of Brettenham and within walking distance of Shadwell Park. The area is made up of farmland and green meadows which often have sheep and cattle grazing as well as an abundance of wildlife. Close by, the River Thet winds its way through to Thetford and beyond, giving an ebb and flow to the Breckland landscape. Seasonal colours add to the peaceful and picturesque setting together with the tranquillity of the countryside – a delight to visit when in the area.

The building is of national historic importance and is Listed Grade 1.


The Church is included in the benefice of Harling Guiltcross, which is part of the Diocese of Norwich. St Andrew’s was rededicated on Sunday 6th August 2017 by the Lord Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham James, following a period of approximately 15 years of major refurbishment, roofing, electrical and other substantial repairs being carried out, during which the building was closed.

The Altar and East window with reredos, communion rail & stained - glass window


Much of the original Church was destroyed by a fire in 1693, and in Ladbrooke’s drawing of 1820 the chancel was still shown as a ruin. In 1852-53 the Dowager Lady Buxton, who at the time lived in Shadwell Park, engaged the well renowned and respected architect SS Teulon to rebuild the Church as well as carry out a great deal of work at Shadwell Park. Following this, further restoration also took place in 1903. SS Teulon introduced many features to the Church including the Carr-stone voussoirs around the window frames, and carved head stops of bishops in mitres at a time when no Anglican bishop wore a mitre.


The Norman doorway, which is sheltered by the porch, is a splendid example of the craftsmanship of the Norman period, and is the oldest part of the Church. The shafting has patterns cut on it and there is also a Mass-dial to the right of the doorway. Originally this would have been used as a sun dial to give the times of the services in Church. It can still be viewed today - (close to the notice board, if you are looking for it.) A great deal of work had to be carried out in the late 1990’s to restore the tower and it was noted that if this had not been done promptly the Church tower would probably have fallen and the Church would have become a ruin in later years. When the roof was fully restored, all replacement tiles were made by hand and the run of crosses across the roof were completely restored or replaced. This ensured that the original rebuilding drawings by architect SS Teulon could be followed, his external design work seen and admired. The set of 5 bells are some of the earliest by Taylors of Loughborough but sadly, at present, remain unable to be rung.

This chancel screen was introduced in 1903, it has an alabaster base and a very elaborately carved wooden top surmounted by a crucifix. The communion rails and reredos were also provided at this time. To add to the adornment, the chancel roof was stencilled, and the chancel arch had very florid carving added. The stained glass in these windows is very subdued to give a suitable atmosphere for God’s house of prayer.
The stained-glass windows throughout the Church were designed about 1890 probably by A L Moore from London and depict various subject matters together with two further windows designed by SS Teulon. The nave north window is of special local interest as it shows St Chad, a prominent 7 th century Anglo - Saxon churchman. St Chad founded a monastery and is credited together with his brother St Cedd, with introducing Christianity to the Mercian kingdom. Shadwell is named after St Chad as
he was believed to have used a local well in the grounds of Shadwell Park whilst walking in the area. Below is a stained -glass image of St. Chad
There is even more to see and admire in this delightful rural Church. It has an organ made by Henry Jones & Sons of South Kensington, filling the north transept and a south transept, screened off to provide a chapel for the Musker family, who were the estate owners up until the 1990s and who’s family members are buried here. A delightful octagonal vestry was added to the North of the Church, is opposite the highly carved priest’s doorway. The entrance has an elaborate finial in the 14 th century style, another feature of SS Teulon and would have given access to the priest when there was a rectory and pathway through to the village and surrounding areas. Following all the recent restoration in the Church a number of stencils have been exposed due to the improvement of the air quality and dampness, it is hoped that in the future they may be restored in some way so that the beauty of the fine work can be admired – see picture below.
Services are normally held monthly, and all are encouraged to join and celebrate the Life of Christ. Visitors are welcome to contact the Church Warden or Secretary for more information, visiting details & other
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