their ravages or their cultural influences, as we shall see.
The present church dates back “only” to the Norman period. Dearham Church, however, has its own collection of Anglo-Saxon carvings - not mention a name of Anglo-Saxon derivation - to that prove the village is much older, although nobody can prove or disprove the existence of a pre-Norman church. The church itself postulates a date of around 1130 for its oldest features: its south doorway and the remains of a Norman arch on the north side of the nave. The church at that time would have comprised the present nave and a small chancel. The eastern end of today’s chancel is of the Early English with simple lancet windows. The very bulky tower is believed to be c14. Today’s tower arch is rather extraordinary as it spreads across the entire width of the tower itself. The north aisle was added during an 1882 restoration. The church was bedevilled by subsidence problems then - and it still is today. The site falls away steeply to the east and somewhat to the north. As with so many English churches, sadly, centuries of additions and alterations have produced a church rather too big for its footings!
The treasures of Dearham Church, however, are in its font and its Anglo-Saxon artifacts. The font is four-sided. Two sides are decorated with geometric designs. The other two are occupied by real honest-to-goodness comic book dragons. There is no pretence at allegory; no quasi-religious symbolism. What cultural and religious ambiguity gave rise to these, we might ask?
Some of the answer might be in the Anglo-Saxon cross facing the south door. This delicious relic has a Celtic style wheel cross at its head. Nothing extraordinary about that. What makes this piece astonishing is the imagery on what is now the south side of the shaft: a Tree of Yggdrasil - the Viking representation of the world as an ash tree. So what we have here is a not a melange of two religions, nor an attempt to reconcile them. We have separate representations of two different religions existing side by side. Dearham, however, has more than that. Hidden away on the west capital of its Norman doorway is a “circle interlaced with arcs” geometric design that the late Mary Curtis Webb conclusively proved to be derived from the Greek view of the Cosmos as developed by Plato and Pythagoras! For more on this please follow this link.
So humble little Dearham Church illustrates perfectly centuries of conflict and attempts at reconciliation between different views of our Universe. This village and perhaps a predecessor church must have seen the uneasy co-existence of the Celtic and Roman “versions” of Christianity. Then the Vikings arrived and the locals had to deal with the contradictions - and, dare one say it, the conflicting attractions - of two religions and apparently they gave up trying! Just when you thought that the Normans had put a stop to all that shilly-shallying we find a distinctly pagan-looking font and a carving on the church that proves that the educated churchmen (and here we must be talking about the monks) were still trying to reconcile their Christianity with learning derived from the Greeks! And lest you think this totally mad, do bear in mind that the Gospels were originally written in Greek and that this was the lingua franca of public life in the Roman Empire until ........
So here is Dearham. A little known church in a perhaps little-frequented corner of England proving to any of us with an open mind that any notions we might have had of the instant and unquestioning adoption of Christianity to the exclusion of all else in post-Roman England is so much hogwash! Just to think that my history teacher at school airily announced that “St Augustine converted England to Christianity”. Do make sure that you also visit the nearby church of Bridekirk. Here you will see (housed in a very Victorian church) an even finer Norman font where Christianity and the “old” religions are properly reconciled. What a story our island has to tell!