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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Little Melton, Norfolk (†Norwich) C.14

Warning Against Idle Gossip

Warning against Idle Gossip, Little Melton

Two remarkably graceful gossips sit on a rough-hewn bench. The gradual introduction of church seating starts from around the date of the painting, and benches resembling this may well have been in the church at the time.

The very large spherical buttons down the centre of the bodice of the woman on the right would have been the height of fashion in rural Norfolk in the 1370s, the likely decade of the painting. Certainly the two women have been painted with considerable skill.

Each woman has a rosary, and the two hold these out towards each other, perhaps for mutual admiration of their workmanship (or costliness – these do not look like peasant women). The pair are certainly in a confidential huddle, heads inclined towards each other, as opposed to being piously bent over their beads. At the right hand end of the bench, traces are still visible of a devil standing on it. Tristram¹ saw the painting in the first half of the 20th century and confirms that this is what it is. He could also see traces of a larger devil standing behind the bench, and embracing the two women as in almost all the other examples of the subject in the table below. I can see nothing of this now, but there may be another small devil squatting on the left hand end of the bench.

A painting of (probably) St Christopher and St Catherine at Little Melton has effectively vanished behind the organ, but there is a large Annunciation on the altar wall. The church is largely unspoiled, and there are many other medieval items of interest.

Website for All Saints church

¹ Tristram III, p.222