Right up on the North Norfolk Coast between Hunstanton and Blakeney, where property prices have been driven to astronomical levels by “second homers”, there are four villages bearing the name “Burnham”: Burnham Deepdale, Burnham Norton, Burnham Overy and Burnham Market. Remarkably the first three of these, all within a church bell’s chime of each other, each find a place in Simon Jenkins’s Top 1000 English churches.
Burnham Deepdale is on the main coast road and must be driven past by gazillions of tourists every year. If 1% of them called in and donated £1 this would be the richest church in christendom. Only its round tower, however, catches the eye. It is Anglo-Saxon of indeterminate date: as I say elsewhere on this site, the expression “Anglo-Saxon” is singularly unhelpful spanning, as it does, a period of about 400 years!
There is a certain amount of “revisionist” opinion about round towers nowadays with many that appear Saxon now being recast as Norman. I think Simon Jenkins hits the nail on the head when he says “We do not know how many of Norfolk’s round towers were begun by Saxons, but even those founded by the incoming Normans would have been built with Saxon hands and Saxon voices”. Certainly that of Deepdale is Saxon in so many ways that the argument is simply an academic one.
It is the “Labours of the Month” Norman font for which this church is famous, however. This is a rare variation of Norman font that is especially fascinating