Wednesday 16 December 2009

'Inalienable' Again

Crostwick is northeast of Norwich, on the road to Coltishall. This was its Vicarage (above) now a Hotel. Royal Air Force Coltishall (now also redundant) was an important part of my life as a young Fighter Controller. The Rector of the Horsham Benfice now lives in the next village, Spixworth. The other minister listed there is a Methodist lady.

How well our predecessors built. The Vicarages and Rectories of England were great treasures, part, you might say, of the Patrimony of the Church of England. They were often built by the Incumbent himself, or by the local Patron of the living. Now dioceses treat them as their private property. This is Mogerhanger, another parsonage 'surplus to requirements', and pictured as it was undergoing a make-over.

In this week's SPECTATOR there is a review by Lucinda Lambton of Anthony Jennings' 'History of the English Parsonage'. She writes of 'a teeth-grindingly scandalous state of affairs partly brought about by the grotesque mismanagement by the church and its diocesan boards, and partly by the egalitarian misapprehension that these beautiful and historical architectural treasures .. somehow cut the clergy off from their poor parishioners'. '"The great 20th-century sell-off" as it is described by Jennings, will be to the church's eternal detriment' says Lambton - and who could argue with that?

The Church of England is not alone in its vandalism, of course. Wales has been at it as well. A former student of St Stephen's House has brought lo life and most wonderfully restored the Old Vicarage at Norton, near Presteigne - not as a parsonage, but as a very superior B&B.

You can find it described on his website at
Perhaps you are not too late to book a post Christmas break? And you might spend some of your Christmas book-token on Anthony Jenning's book (published by Continuum at £25): then from the comfort of a chair by a log fire in the former Vicarage (built by Gilbert Scott) you may douse your natural good nature with what Lucinda Lambton calls "Jennings' collection of diocesan anti-parsonage quotes".
Happy Christmas.

High Victorian Gothic at Norton, sympathetically and beautifully restored.

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