Building » Lynford – Our Lady of Consolation and St Stephen

Lynford – Our Lady of Consolation and St Stephen

Lynford, Thetford, Norfolk, IP26 5HW

A small estate chapel built for Mrs Yolande Lyne-Stephens by Henry Clutton in 1877-8, of very high quality. It has retained its rich interior almost intact. Owned by the Diocese of East Anglia, it is leased to the Norfolk Churches Trust. Its external buttresses include rare early Romanesque figurative panels, probably from Thetford. The church is attached to an older farmhouse (the former presbytery, now in separate ownership) and lies within the registered parkland of Lynford Hall.

In 1856, the banker Mr Stephens Lyne-Stephens bought Lynford Hall from the Sutton family and soon afterwards demolished it to build what Pevsner describes as ‘a kind of Parisian neo-Jacobean’ house, by William Burn (listed Grade II, 1342594). He died in 1860 before it was finished, leaving his wife, the former ballerina Mlle Pauline Duvernay, a fortune partly derived from patented moving doll’s eyes but also from his own career as a banker and his family’s glass manufacturing business in Portugal. Mrs Yolande Lyne-Stephens tired of journeying to Mass at the nearest Catholic church in Thetford (about eight miles away across then open breckland) and (reportedly prompted by her house guest Lord Lovat) decided to build her own church.

Henry Clutton was a distinguished architect mainly of country houses, but he designed several churches, all of them Catholic after his conversion in 1856, and researched and wrote an influential book on French domestic architecture. He built Our Lady of Consolation about 600 metres south of Lynford Hall in 1877-8, attaching it to the existing Home Farmhouse, which became the presbytery. The church was consecrated by the Bishop of Northampton on 7 October 1884. After the death of Mrs Lyne-Stephens in 1894, the new Anglican owners of the Hall planted trees to hide the ‘terrible eyesore’ from the house and gardens. It remained a chapel-of-ease to Thetford but in 2009 was leased by the Diocese of East Anglia to the Norfolk Churches Trust (its only Catholic church). Occasional services are held by the Thetford parish priest.


The church is orientated northeast-southwest, but for the purposes of this report liturgical compass points will be used i.e. the altar at the east.

The list description (below) is brief and inadequate, not least because the interior was not inspected. This is a rectangular building of four bays with a single, undifferentiated interior. A single storey building along the two easternmost bays on the south side is essentially a passage providing a rudimentary sacristy; a further eastern bay links to the presbytery at right angles to the southeast of the church. It has no ‘entrance porches’ or confessional but a single western door. The east doorway to the former presbytery has been blocked up. The following additional information should be considered:

  • The full dedication is to Our Lady of Consolation and St Stephen, the latter no doubt referring to Mr Lyne-Stephens.
  • The external flint is not just knapped, but split into roughly circular pieces of roughly equal size, a very expensive finish.
  • At the base of each buttress is a panel of Romanesque decoration or some c.1100 figurative panels, which presumably came from Thetford (perhaps the short-lived cathedral). The sculptured panels are very rare in Norfolk.
  • All the windows are round-headed with Perpendicular style tracery, those on the sides rising into the lower string course of the stone parapet.
  • The north (and only) chapel door is also round-headed within a square hood moulding finishing in distinctive exaggerated moulded hoodstops; there is a consecration cross below the western hoodstop. The vertical plank door has applied mouldings forming square panels with a central mullion. The planks are set horizontally inside. The blank window above forms a niche for a large (marble?) Virgin and Child in Baroque style.
  • There are two two-light west windows, each flanking the central buttress.
  • The four-light east window has deep tracery repeating that of the west windows, but with a row of large multi-cusped quatrefoils over the lights.
  • The sentence ‘Aisles with doorways in western walls, single light cusped windows and parapetted flat roofs’ should be deleted as it does not refer to this church. There is a west door to the two-bay south side link building.
  • The internal walls are faced with tightly-jointed limestone.
  • The timber barrel vaulted ceiling is panelled between principle rafters rising from thirteen sculpted stone heads each side. The wall plate is hidden by richly traceried panels and is interrupted by the heads of the windows rising above the ceiling springing point.
  • A west narthex is created by a timber Gothic screen at the rear of the fixed pews. A heating boiler has stood in the southwest corner and there are two low arched recesses flanking the central buttress. A southern raised platform supported a vestment chest.
  • Another alabaster Virgin and Child statue stands in the blank window over the north door, in a much quieter pose than its exterior equivalent. There is a fine marble stoup, the bowl held by an angel.
  • The square-ended benches in late medieval style are fixed on timber platforms and into a timber dado. There is no obvious manorial pew.
  • The square-headed door in front of the altar rail on the south side leads to the passage to the presbytery. Like the north door it has square panels and a brass handle, mounted on horizontal planks internally and vertical planks to the passage.
  • The bow-fronted sanctuary has a brass altar rail on open quatrefoil ironwork and a ceramic mosaic floor with delicate floral designs on a white ground.
  • The stone altar and reredos stand on two steps above the sanctuary floor, also of ceramic mosaic. Both are richly decorated with French motifs and although reminiscent of Pugin’s work, is certainly not by him as Pevsner suggests. The throne canopy rises into the east window and the gilt brass tabernacle is flanked by kneeling angels.
  • Freestanding consoles stand either side of the sanctuary, the white marble tops supported by two dark grey columns. There is a fine iron lectern, iron riddel brackets and an elaborately decorated black wood president’s chair with a coat of arms, possibly French.
  • Stained glass by Mayer & Co. fills every window, two on the south side signed. The side windows have saints in patterned backgrounds, the east window scenes of the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity and Flight into Egypt. The glass is losing its paint.
  • The plaster Stations of the Cross have large wooden Gothic style frames.
  • A third modern statue of the Virgin of Child of painted plaster stands within a modern wooden niche on a plinth to the north of the altar rail. A modern painted plaster Sacred Heart statue stands on a shelf in the narthex.

The church is built and furnished to a high standard with very fine materials, all presumably designed by Clutton but the makers have not been established.

List description


Roman Catholic church. 1879 by Henry Clutton for Mrs. Lyne Stephens of Lynford Hall. Knapped flint with ashlar dressings. Plaintile roof. Undifferentiated nave and chancel with eastern (sic) half flanked by aisle-like structures serving as entrance porches, vestry and confessional. 4 bays of tall narrow single light windows with tracery in Perpendicular style. Intermediate buttresses of exaggerated proportions. Traceried open parapets West wall with a 2-light window flanking a central buttress which supports a circular bellcote with traceried openings and a conical stone roof. Aisles with doorways in western walls, single light cusped windows and parapetted flat roofs. Entry not gained.

Listing NGR: TL8188293306

Heritage Details

Architect: Henry Clutton

Original Date: 1875

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*