At first glance the St Mary the Virgin in North Tuddenham, with its magnificent tower and great perpendicular windows, offers nothing particularly distinctive. Everything you see post dates the Black Death. The tower is the earliest part, from just before 1400, while the chancel and nave appear to date from the early 15th century.
As you walk into the north porch, still nothing remarkable, but if you glance sideways left and right at the porch windows you get a glimpse of what is to come. They are filled with ‘mosaics’ of the most delicate and lifelike medieval stained glass. And the moment you walk through the north door you are aware that there is something vastly different about this church.
The first impression is of an interior totally out of keeping with the exterior, yet magnificent. The bold geometric encaustic tiles that cover the walls to window height, suggest a cross between a Byzantine Church and a Museum of Victoriana. The first thing that catches the eye is the enormous east window, constructed 1860’s, with its almost garish stained glass by Ward and Wright, depicting scenes from Jesus life. The fine pipe organ built by Bevingtons of London, commissioned in 1875, has recently been fully restored and in the cavernous space within the church the acoustic is now terrific. There are no pillars in this church, so the sound is unimpeded!
Salvaged medieval glass is to be found under the Victorian glass in the west window: to the left, vividly portraying the martyrdom of St Margaret of Antioch, and on the right scenes from St George, rescuing the maiden and slaying the dragon. Looking towards the chancel, one’s eye is immediately drawn to the fine 15th century rood screen, consisting of eight vibrantly painted saints. Left to right, they are Agnes, Gregory, Dorothy, Jeron, Katherine, Edmund/Sebastian, Etheldreda and finally Roche. The colour and details on these panels is remarkable. Of less obvious quality are the panels on the tower screen, which date back to 1380-90 and depict the saints Matthew, Mark, Gregory and Augustine.