Mr Midshipman Easy
NORTH CREAKE (in 1940).
from "The King's England; Norfolk", ed. Arthur Mee (1940), pp258-259
"It lies in the peaceful valley of the Nelson country through which flows the little River Burn. In a
sheltered corner by the stream, on the way to Nelson's birthplace, are some ruins among the trees.
They are all that is left of Creake Abbey, but there is still a haunting sense of the beauty this place
must have had when Sir Robert de Nerford founded it seven centuries ago.
Under the woods stands the wayside church, on which roses climb in summer and a sundial marks
the summer hours. Some of it is 600 years old and most of it 15th century, the age of the
clerestory and the hammerbeam roofs. White-robed angels with shields and apostles with scrolls
adorn the chancel roof; the coloured nave roof has angel bosses, 36 angels on the richly carved
wallplates and 20 saints supporting the hammerbeams. In the west doorway hangs an old door
with rich tracery made new, and four old panels are preserved in the organ case.
The 14th-century chancel has fine stone carving in the sedilia and piscina and in the Easter
Sepulchre; and much rich modern carving in wood is in the panelling of the chancel walls, the
screen, and the seats. In the wealth of carving in the altar and the reredos are tiny saints and
angels in niches, and under the reredos canopy are three painted Bible scenes. The tale of
modern craftsmanship is carried on by the traceried end of the benches, the gables lectern with
canopied figures round the stem, and the richly pinnacled cover of the medieval font. The cover
is like a tower with a delicate spire, opening to show paintings of the Baptism and Our Lord
with the Children.
There are traces of old wall painting above the chancel arch, and a brass portrait of a Tudor
civilian in academical dress with a bag and a rosary hanging from his belt, and the model of a
church resting in the crook of his arm. He is thought to be Sir William Calthorpe who made the
church new in the 15th century.
Two clergymen of diverse histories lie in the church. One was the father of Bishop Pearson of
Chester, who wrote a great work on the Creed, father and son both dying in 1640, when John
Hassall became rector. He had hardly held the living for twelve months before he was deprived of
all his benefices on account of his opinions, and he died in great poverty.
It is believed that in this village Mr Midshipman Easy was born, the literary child of Captain
Marryat, who came to live in Norfolk and lies at Langham, ten miles away. The rector here was
his great friend Thomas Robert Keppel, a younger son of the fourth Lord Albemarle and brother of
Sir Henry Keppel the admiral, one of Edward the Seventh's old friends. Tom began life in the
navy but was too "easy" for it, and came into the Church, leaving it for brother Henry to distinguish
himself at sea. Tom went to Cambridge and was ordained and became vicar of Warham
St Mary and afterwards rector of North Creake. He was an excellent parish priest, enjoying a
long and peaceful life, and years after his death the people of North Creake would seek out his
grandson, Mr Frederick Keppel North, when he was near by, to tell him tales of the "dear old
rector" who had baptised and married them and won their hearts. Captain Marryat is supposed
to have modelled Mr Midshipman Easy on this shepherd of a little Norfolk flock."