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The parish church was the most important communal building of the village, the site of legal, social, and artistic as well as religious activities; these shared practices produced common architectural features.  A church building is inherently conservative, and except for the extraordinary intervention, changed very slowly.  A large proportion of churches had been founded by at least the late 12th century, many appearing in the Doomsday census of 1089.  Elements from these early buildings often survive in the doorways or the base of towers, showing typical rounded arches and massive walls of the Norman style.  Additions over time could include a reconstructed window, a new baptismal font, a tomb sculpture, or a series of carved wooden choir stalls for the clergy, attesting to differing eras of piety and style. 

East Anglia is almost entirely lacking suitable building stone, so that nearly all walling is of rubble, chiefly of flint, with the setting material being lime and mortar.  Often flushwork, decorative inlay of the dark flint, creates spectacular patterns.  For “quoins” (blocks used for corners), moldings, and other portions of the church, dressed stone was imported, most likely from Barnack quarries near Stamford.  Despite the 15th century reconstruction that raised the height of most East Anglian parishes with a clerestory level, profiles remained low, stressing a horizontal progression of spaces.  By the mid 15th century, at the time of Kempe’s book, a general East-Anglian ordinance was set: a western tower and an entrance porch, then tall timber-roofed nave with aisle and clerestory windows.  A chancel, often of lower elevation and differently roofed, was marked off by a screen crowned by a freestanding cross.  Additional interior divisions appeared as chapels, sometimes to the left and right of the chancel, and sometimes set in the aisles.  Stained glass adorned the many windows, most often portraying standing figures or scenes framed by light colored borders of depicted architecture, allowing considerable light into the interior space. 
East Harling, Sts Peter and Paul, 1460, from south