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All Saints, Toftrees, Norfolk

(52°48′41″N, 0°48′47″E)
TF 897 275
medieval Norfolk
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Norfolk
  • Jill A Franklin
  • Jill A Franklin

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Feature Sets

The most striking aspect of this simple, unaisled two-cell church is its 14thc W tower. All of the ashlar details in the building's flint masonry are datable to c1300 and later, but the form and depth of the 14thc window embrasures suggest that they were secondary openings in much older walls. The elaborately carved font is the only identifiably Romanesque feature in the church. It is one of a small but distinctive and localised group that are closely related in terms of their ornament and style. Similarities in their design and repertory of motifs indicate their kinship, but there are notable differences in concept and execution between them.


A church with 60 acres was recorded at Toftrees in Domesday Book. Before the Conquest, Toftrees was held by Toki of Walton. The tenant-in-chief at the time of the Domesday Survey was William of Warenne and the church at Toftrees was appropriated to his priory in Lewes, Sussex. Part of Toftrees was an outlying holding within the manor of Sculthorpe which belonged to William of Warenne. Estimated to have comprised some 56 households, Toftrees was a very large settlement compared with others in Domesday Book.





The three other fonts in Norfolk that are considered to constitute a stylistic group with Toftrees are at Shernbourne, Sculthorpe and South Wootton. In Bond's view, they were 'unsurpassed in Europe ... the work of a great, unknown, original genius.' The Shernborne font basin also has a recessed nook-shaft at each corner, as well as supporting colonnettes with comparable capitals and bases. At Shernbourne, however, the beast masks are incorporated in the body of the basin, rather than on the four corners of the upper rim, and there is also greater use there of interlace than at Toftrees. The compass-drawn knotwork motif on the W face of the Toftrees font occurs widely in Romanesque sculpture, in mainland Europe as well as in the British Isles. Other examples in Norfolk are on the fonts at Shernbourne, Sculthorpe and Warham, All Saints. Elsewhere, it can be seen on the font now in the church of St John the Baptist in Stone, Buckinghamshire.

The creatures on the Toftrees font have been variously identified. Francis Bond saw one as a wolf (Bond (1908), 183). Pevsner perceived them as rams' heads (Pevsner (2000), 738).

Sources differ as to the amount of land belonging to the church, some giving the area as 40 acres, others as 60. There may have been confusion over the order in which the Roman numerals were written.


The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Norfolk, vol 2 , London 1906.

F. Blomefield, An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 7 (London, 1807), 200.

F. Bond, Fonts and Font Covers, London, New York and Toronto 1908, 144, 151, 153, 155, 157, 183, 191, 193-96, 209, 217.

Domesday Book: A Complete Translation, eds A. Williams and G.H. Martin, Harmondsworth 1992/2002, 1094, 1166, 1167.

H. J. Dukinfield Astley, Memorials of Old Norfolk, London 1908, 221, 223, 234.

J. A. Franklin, ‘The Romanesque Sculpture of Norwich and Norfolk: The City and its Hinterland – Some Observations,’ in Norwich. Medieval and Early Modern Art, Architecture and Archaeology, B.A.A.C.T. vol. 38, 2015, 135 -161, 158 n. 10.

Historic England Listed Building 1049295

S. Lewis, ed., A Topographical History of England , 4 vols, London 1848, 368.

N. Pevsner and B. Wilson, The Buildings of England, Norfolk: North-West and South, Harmondsworth1962, 2nd edn 1999, rev. 2000, 2: 63, 737-38.