Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Rivers and roods

Just enjoyed the last of Griff Rhys-Jones’ explorations of  RIVERS  in his series of the same name. This episode he took us down some east-anglican waters and it was good to see Ely having a big mention, and Wicken Fen.

By the time he got to Ranworth – I was delighted to catch   a glimpse once more of the splendid 15th century rood screen at St Helen’s Ranworth – the “cathedral” of the Broads. I went there a few years ago and was bowled over by the screen and the way the church was so open and welcoming of visitors.

ranworth church rood

ranworth church rood 2

Now I am trying to imagine quite how the remains of the Great Paxton rood screen used to look before it was removed to the tower arch…..

When I was young and cycling round oxforshire churches, I came across the church at Charlton-upon-Otmoor and remembered they have a splendid rood still in situ and here is an article about it:

The Charlton-on-Otmoor Garland

A unique rood exists at St Mary’s Church, Charlton-on-Otmoor, near Oxford, England, where a large wooden cross, solidly covered in greenery, stands on the 16th-century rood screen, said by Nikolaus Pevsner to be the finest in Oxfordshire. The cross is redecorated twice a year, on 1 May and 19 September (the patronal festival, on the Julian Calendar), when children from the local primary school, carrying small crosses decorated with flowers, bring a long, flower-decorated, rope-like garland. The cross is dressed or redecorated with locally obtained box foliage. The rope-like garland is hung across the rood screen during the “May Garland Service”.

An engraving from 1823 shows the dressed rood cross as a more open, foliage-covered framework, similar to certain types of corn dolly, with a smaller attendant figure of similar appearance. Folklorists have commented on the garlands’ resemblance to human figures and noted that they replaced statues of St Mary and St James which had stood on the rood screen until they were destroyed during the Reformation. Until the 1850s, the larger garland was carried in a May Day procession, accompanied by morris dancers, to the former Benedictine priory at Studley (as the statue of St Mary had been until the Reformation). Meanwhile the women of the village used to carry the smaller garland through Charlton, though it seems that this ceased some time between 1823 and 1840, when an illustration in J. H. Parker’s Glossary of Architecture shows only one garland, centrally positioned on the rood screen.

And, try as I may, I cant find a photo of this rood anywhere on the net – so one day I shall have to go abck and take one!

Time for bed said Zebedee – its hard work wining the ashes!

August 23, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Ah! Ranworth, one of the beautiful rubies in the dazzling crown of lovely old Norfolk churches.

    We enjoyed the series too, funnily enough I used to work next to the R. Lee in Hertfordshire and was absolutely ignorant of its course and history, and had no idea it ended up in the Thames.

    TV’s at it best when it’s educational I think?

    Comment by Wingy | August 27, 2009 | Reply

  2. Would you like a photo of rood at Charlton-on-Otmoor?

    Comment by Nigel Lambert | February 18, 2011 | Reply

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