Friday, 17 March 2017

Chatteris, Cambridgeshire

SS Peter & Paul is a largish rather splendid building set in a jewel of a churchyard full of interesting C18th headstones. When I arrived a funeral was about to start so I didn't get inside but I'm fairly sure that its normal status is LNK; a quick Google shows that Chatteris doesn't have the most reputable reputation. Reading Pevsner I don't think it contains much of interest.

SS PETER AND PAUL. Mostly by Sir Arthur Blomfield’s firm in 1909-10. But the nave arcades and the comparatively small W tower are of the C14. The arcades are of six bays, with tall octagonal piers and fine heads as stops of the hood-moulds of the arches. The W tower has diagonal buttresses, a doorway with a triple-chamfered surround without capitals and a lancet window above. The later top is embattled and carries a recessed lead spire. - PLATE. Paten given in 1708; Chalice and Flagon given in 1728; Paten marked 1744.

Chickenwire gardener

Headstone (8)

Headstone (1)

CHATTERIS. Lying on a busy road in the fenlands, it has a very old story, for here bones of extinct animals have been found, a. bronze sword has been brought to light in a dugout canoe, and the plough has turned up an urn with a thousand Roman coins. An Elizabethan manor house hiding behind a wall stands on the site of a vanished convent founded by the wife of Earl Athelstan the Saxon. The Vermuyden Drain near the town recalls the draining of the fens by the great Dutch engineer in Cromwell’s century, and Honey Farm keeps green the memory of Huna, the faithful chaplain of St Etheldreda, who lived here as a hermit after her death.

The medieval church has been refashioned by the generosity of a sexton’s son who made a fortune in America and spent much of it on the church his father had cared for. It is spacious, with the tower and its lead spire, the lofty arcades and the font, all from the 14th century. Between two of the arches is a sculpture of an old man sitting cross legged, and there are figures of two bishops among the heads looking down. One is a bishop of our own day, and looking across the nave at him is the vicar who restored this church in the first quarter of our century. He was Henry Bagshaw; the fine oak screen is his memorial.

The beautiful pulpit with St Edmund and St George is in memory of his son, who fell in Flanders. The heroes of the village are remembered by a cross with a lantern head in a wayside garden, and also in the east window of the church, which shows Our Lord with a great company of saints and apostles, prophets and martyrs, and the armed knights of the Allies carrying their flags.

Among the 158 men of Chatteris who died for peace was one who has a window to his memory, George William Clare. He was a choirboy here, and won the VC by carrying wounded men to the dressing station during heavy bombing. When the garrison of a detached post had all fallen he crossed a space of 150 yards swept by heavy fire, dressed all the cases, and manned the post single-handed. He carried one man to cover through intense fire. Learning that the enemy was using gas, and that the wind was blowing it towards the trenches and shell-holes, he personally warned every post of the danger, being all the time under shell and rifle fire. He died a very gallant gentleman, killed by a shell, and it is good to know that the street from which he went out to the war is named after him.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Ufford, Suffolk

Suffolk is a county that just keeps giving; every time I think that I've visited the best church yet along comes another one that makes me think again, St Mary of the Assumption, open, is one such.

A beautiful setting, stunning flushwork, a John Doubleday BVM and inside an astonishing array of bench ends and poppyheads - not hyperbole I assure you -, some very good stained glass, the extraordinary telescopic font cover, a bonkers sarcophagus tomb and some long dead relatives instantly posted it into my top ten and not just of Suffolk. Simon Jenkins gives it a measly two stars, my advice would be to ignore this and visit immediately.

ST MARY. Norman N walling. Re-used Norman doorway in the chancel. The arcade consists of two parts. The two E bays are of c. 1200, with massive round pier and responds; the four-centred arches are Perp. The W bays are later; octagonal pier and two-centred arches. All the arches are double-chamfered. W tower with a little flushwork decoration, S porch with much stars with shields, quatrefoils, a wavy tracery band, and arched panelling. Three niches above the entrance. Clerestory of eight windows against the four bays below. Fine roof with alternating hammerbeams and tie-beams. Chancel roof with collars on long arched braces. The braces are divided in two by pendants coming down from the purlins (cf. Crowfield). The purlins are longitudinally arch-braced, and the wall-plate is richly decorated with battlements and small angels with spread wings. - FONT. The bowl is supported by heads. Against the bowl shields and roses set in quatrefoils and similar fields. - FONT COVER. A prodigious and delightful piece reaching right up to the roof. Munro Cautley calls it ‘ the most beautiful in the world’. Richly crocketed and beset with finials in six or seven tiers, or three, according to how one counts in this thicket of fine decoration. At the very top a Pelican in her Piety. The lower panels slide up over part of the upper. - SCREEN. Dado with painted figures, and rood beam. - BENCHES. With much tracery and poppy-heads on the ends, and to the l. and r. of the poppy-heads animals. - (SOUTH DOOR. With C14 ironwork. LG) - BELL. Of c. 1400 (on the floor at the W end). - PROCESSIONAL CROSS. Said to be C17 Flemish. - CANDLESTICKS and CRUCIFIX on the High Altar, said to be dated 1707 and Italian. - PLATE. Cup and Paten 1671. - MONUMENTS. Brass to Symon Brooke d. 1483 and three wives. 18 in. figures (nave floor). - Sir Henry Wood d. 1671. At the W end of the S aisle big sarcophagus and on it a shrine-like black marble shape crowned by a cartouche with a coat of arms. Free-standing on the sarcophagus an urn. - Outside the W wall of the churchyard STOCKS.

Bench end SS Catherine & Margaret

S chapel E window Ninian Comper 1920 (10)

Corbel

UFFORD. We walk where Roman feet have been, down deep-shaded lanes to this old place, built on a steep road below which the River Deben flows. It was the ford of Uffa, a Saxon chief, and is said to have been owned by one family for many centuries.

The old flint tower stands by quaint houses with thatched and red tile roofs and tall chimneys; at the gate are the stocks and whipping-post. The church dates from our three great building centuries, the tower added in the 14th and the chancel in the 15th. A little of its medieval colour still shows faintly on the roofs, but the painted figures of martyrs are fading away on the ancient screen, and the wall-painting of St Christopher was almost gone when we called.

There are a few fragments of old glass, an old hourglass by the pulpit, and 15th century stalls carved with saints and queer beasts. The cornice is richly carved with angels, the work of the peasants of Oberammergau. In the memorial chapel to those who did not come back from the Great War is a window with a bluejacket and a soldier helping to bear up the Cross on the road to Calvary. The faces are beautiful.

The 500-year-old font has shields round the bowl resting on heads, but the chief glory of Ufford is its exquisite font cover, a marvellous possession. It reaches almost to the roof, and is crowned with a pelican, and the whole of this mass of woodwork is finely carved and painted. This masterpiece of craftsmanship is 600 years old and the finest font cover even in East Anglia, the home of many lovely ones. It is actually recorded that that breaker of beautiful things William Dowsing, the fanatic who destroyed much lovely work in our churches, was held spellbound at this font and stopped to admire this “glorious cover, like a pope’s triple crown, and gilded over with gold. Towering 18 feet high, it is a mass of lovely pointed tabernacles of open tracery and lacelike pinnacles. It seems to us that Solomon’s temple in all its glory could hardly have had a thing more beautiful than this.

At the font would be baptised old Richard Ballett, whose skeleton is here on a brass with two dragons; and here old Richard Lovekin was baptising the children of Ufford all through the Civil War. He may have heard of Shakespeare, for he was preaching here soon after the poet died and went on preaching 57 years. It is said of him that he was plundered of all his goods except a silver spoon which he hid up his sleeve, and either that or something else brought him good luck, for we are told that he lived to be 111 and preached to his people the Sunday before he died. So did Lovekin love his kin.


Melton, Suffolk

On my way to Ufford from Woodbridge I passed Old St Andrew and stopped for an impromptu visit. This redundant church is cared for the Melton Old Church Society and is sadly, though given its remotish location perhaps inevitably, kept locked although there is a notice with numbers to call to arrange a visit "with prior notice" [which is not much good, as I've railed before, to the unplanned visitor].

That said I loved the exterior, the lovely churchyard and its stunning location.

OLD ST ANDREW. Dec W tower with flushwork decoration on base, buttresses, and battlements. The W window has reticulated tracery. Nave only, with a small C19 apse. - BRASSES. Ecclesiastic, Civilian, and Lady, all of c 1430, all c. 2 ft 6 in. figures (NW corner).

Old St Andrew (2)

MELTON. Its long street joins Woodbridge, but it has its own history and some ancient houses. Here is an ancient gaol now used for housing goods; the governor’s house has old oak beams and windows from which the governor could see the gabled roof of the gaol. In this old prison two heroes of Melton were held captive, Alice Driver and Alexander Gouche, both burned at Ipswich in the terrible days of Mary Tudor. They were found hiding in a haystack and poked out with pitch-forks. At the trial Alice Driver compared Queen Mary to Jezebel, for which the judge ordered that her ears should be cut off on the spot, which was done. They were led to the fire at Ipswich singing Psalms.

There is an old church and a new one, the new one containing the old font on which is carved the crucifixion of St Andrew. The old one, seeing no service now except for burials, is in the deep peacefulness of lanes and trees a mile away. It is 14th century and still has in it three brass portraits - a priest of about 1430, a civilian in a tunic with wide sleeves, and a lady with a veiled headdress.

In this village was born in 1814 Edwin Lankester, the father of one of the famous Victorians, Professor Ray Lankester; and here there sleeps, in the new church where he has a window in his memory, Henry Seton Merriman, whose novels were widely read at the end of the 19th century. He was Hugh Stowell Scott, who died at only 41, having made a reputation with his novels, one of which was The Sower.

Poor and half-starved in his youth, Edwin Lankester made the most of every opportunity for study that came his way. He won degrees in London and Heidelberg Universities, and in books, articles, and lectures he spread a knowledge of the causes of disease. So efficient was his work with the microscope in showing that bad water caused the cholera epidemic of 1854 that he was appointed first medical officer for Westminster. A few years later he was elected coroner for Middlesex, a position he held till his death. In spite of strong protests on the ground of cost he insisted on adequate medical certificates being given in every case of death, and in a series of annual reports issued at his own expense he called attention to the crimes of baby-farming and infanticide which were still prevalent in the middle of the 19th century. He was one of the great pioneers of sanitary and social science, and the health of London owes much to his vigour and foresight.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Grundisburgh, Suffolk

I'm not going to offer an original thought on St Mary - but it was what struck me first - why on earth has a water tower been tacked on to a church?

That aside I found a whole new family connection to the Blois family buried here and an interesting building in a lovely village.

ST MARY. S porch tower of 1751-2. Red brick, with angle pilasters, short Doric below, very elongated Doric above. Arched windows; parapet. The chancel is of the late C13, as shown by the Piscina with dog-tooth decoration and the mouldings of the chancel arch. Dec S aisle, see the arcade (octagonal piers, double-chamfered arches) and the windows. Dec also the N doorway of the nave. The nave windows are Perp, and Perp too is the fine S chapel. Parapet with shields in the battlements and inscription referring to 1527 and Thomas Walle, salter of London, and his wife. Priest’s doorway set in the buttress, as at St Stephen Ipswich and at Trunch Norfolk. Perp clerestory of nine closely-set windows. A broad band of flushwork initials, etc., connects them. Perp finally the splendid nave roof, one of the most beautiful in Suffolk. It is a false double-hammerbeam roof, i.e. the upper hammers are false. Angels against the foot of the arched braces and against the harnmerbeams proper. The upper hammerbeams end against pendants coming down from the collars. Kingposts, again with small angel figures, on the collars. Short arched braces also connect the wall-posts in a W-E direction. Richly decorated wall-plate. Good roofs in the S aisle and S chapel too. In the S chapel the arched braces stand on angel corbels of stone. - FONT. On three steps, the upper two with quatrefoil friezes. Against the stem four lions. Against the bowl four lions and four angels, their heads just peeping out behind the shields they hold. - SCREEN. Good rood screen with one-light divisions. The dado of the S chapel screen has the Initials of Christ painted on as a repeat ornament. The upper parts simple. - BENCHES. A few with traceried ends, poppy-heads, and figures. - PAINTING. St Christopher; N wall. Further E on the N wall two C13 figures, discovered recently. - PLATE. Cup perhaps Elizabethan; Cup and Paten 1668; Almsdish 1676. - MONUMENT. Sir Charles Blois d. 1738. No effigy. Big inscription tablet with pilasters l. and r. with cherubs’ heads instead of, or in front of, the capitals. On top a trumpeting putto. The church lies in a good position N of the Green, but its situation is spoilt by the Victorian school immediately to its W and impaired by the War Memorial, which is a little too grand for the village and the place in front of the church.

Tempis fugit

Cranworth Garter banner

Warning against gossip

GRUNDISBURGH. It is charming with thatched cottages and fine houses, among them Grundisburgh Hall, which dates from 1500 and hides in a wooded park. Near the church is a beautiful Tudor house with half-timbering and handsome brick chimneys,

Under little bridges on the green runs the River Finn, and looking on from the churchyard is a village cenotaph in memory of 30 men who died for the peace of the world. Seven men who went from here were awarded honours, two winning the DSO and one the Croix de Guerre.

A noble cedar shades the path to the church, which, though it has an 18th century brick tower, is mostly the work of 14th and 15th century builders. On the north side it is plain, but the south has much decoration. Between the clerestory windows there is ornamental flintwork, showing an almond tree in a pot, the words Ave Maria, and crowns. The nave and a Tudor chapel have panelled battlements, and in a delicate niche over the little doorway we see the Madonna carrying lilies. There is also a mass dial. The interior is light and spacious; and we are thankful that it is so, for here is magnificence which should not be hid. The screen in red and black and gold was fashioned 500 or 600 years ago, and is splendid with its fruit and foliage and traceried panels. In the chancel are two fine old beams, and in the 14th century aisle is a fine old roof with floral bosses and 14 wooden angels. But the greatest possession of Grundisburgh is the superb nave roof, a double hammerbeam structure 500 years old with a richly carved cornice, and no less than 58 angels arranged in three tiers.

There is a very attractive 13th century piscina, a modern pulpit carved in stone, corbel heads of angels and kings, an east window of the Ascension, and a handsome medieval font, with angels and crude lions on the bowl and more lions below. The octagonal piers of the nave are 600 years old, and still here are the stairs to the roodloft and a few fragments of ancient glass. There are old and new benches with poppyheads, four very handsome ones in the chancel being carved with the symbols of the Evangelists - a lion, a bull, an eagle, and an angel, all with wings.

A wall-monument of 1657 shows Robert Brook and his wife kneeling at a little desk, with a quaint group of seven children below; and a big stone crowned with a cherub blowing a golden trumpet tells of Charles Blois who died 200 years ago.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

St Mary, Woodbridge, Suffolk

St Mary is simply fabulous, my only regret being that I didn't visit on a sunnier day - any excuse for a revisit!

ST MARY. The W tower and the N porch are exceptionally lavish in their display of flushwork decoration. The W tower is 108 ft high. Bequests of money were made for it in 1444-53. It is faced with knapped flint all the way through. At the base is a frieze of initials and quatrefoils. The W doorway has spandrels with two shields, and above it is another frieze, of quatrefoils etc. Arched panelling l. and r. Two two-light bell-openings on each side. Tall parapet and battlements, with arched panels, and tracery. The side towards the town is the most ornate. The tower buttresses are interesting too. They start polygonal, but turn into angle buttresses and higher up into diagonal buttresses. The N porch, for which there was a bequest in 1455, also has a base with flushwork tracery panels and initials, arched panelling, another frieze with initials, and battlements with quatre-foils as well as arches. The crenellations are double-stepped, and there are pinnacles. On the front three niches above the entrance. The aisle walls are also knapped. Only the S chapel is quite different. It is built of brick and is now cemented. The E view displays flushwork parapets on the vestry chapel roofs and a higher E gable. There is no structural division between nave and chancel. The arcades run through six bays. The piers have four shafts and four thinner diagonal shafts. The clerestory has twice as many windows as the bays below. Nave roof of low pitch with hammerbeams alternating with tie-beams. - FONT. Panelled stem. The Seven Sacraments and the Crucifixion on the bowl. The background of the scenes has rays. Butterfly head-dresses prove a late C15 date. - ROOD SCREEN. The dado with painted figures now in the parclose between S chapel and chancel and in the N aisle. The inscription refers to John Albrede, a twill weaver, whose will is of  1444. CHANDELIER. Brass,- given in 1676. - STAINED GLASS. In the E window Adoration of the Magi, 1929 by Martin Travers. The scene is in the style of contemporary English wood engraving and surrounded by much clear glass. - PLATE. Two Cups 1636;Paten 1683; Paten and two Flagons 1752. MONUMENTS. In the chancel on the N side Thomas Seckford, who built the N chapel. He was Master of the Court of Requests and died in 1587. Tomb-chest with open arcades, not in its original state, as the lower slab has indents for brasses. No effigy left. The arches are depressed-rounded, the type the French call basket arches; the pilasters which separate them are panelled. - Jeoffrey Pitman d. 1627, S chapel. Large, and also commemorating his two wives and two sons. Two kneeling pairs, one on top of the other, both pairs facing each other across a prayer-desk. Below are the two sons, above the two wives, and on top of the whole high up Jeoffrey Pitman himself kneeling frontally. All flanking pilasters with ribbon work and bunches of fruit. - Access to the churchyard from Church Street by a pair of handsome C18 wrought-iron GATES.

I think 3 Marys

E window Martin Travers (2)

Reredos St Christopher (2)

WOODBRIDGE. It is one of the most delightful small towns of this enchanting countryside, though as crowded with houses as its past is crowded with memories; its long street has hardly an inch to spare. The river bed has silted up since Woodbridge built ships for the Navy, but still the barges carry coal up the River Deben, and still there is much yachting here, and flourishing industries that have to do with ships.

It is one of the towns in which it is pleasant to walk about for the sake of old buildings, old inns, and old houses, and as we walk there come continually to mind the names of famous men who have walked before us here. This town has richly served its country, and the sights we see have been familiar to men whose names are known far and wide about the world. The National Trust is now the guardian of a beautiful site by the river that all Woodbridge people have loved, known as Kyson, and another delightful green space now belonging to all is Elmshurst Park, which has grown out of a beautiful private garden. Kyson was given to the nation by Mr R. C. Notcut, Elmhurst Park was presented to the town by Lord Woodbridge.

It is good to find that the Post Office has admirably done its duty to a fine town by joining hands with the Suffolk Preservation Society in preserving an ancient house. On the site of this 16th century house the new post office has been set up in such a way as to preserve the finest architectural features, the plaster ceilings in the rooms, and a Jacobean fireplace. It is an example the Post Oflice might well adopt in all our ancient towns.

In the same way there has been preserved through all its reconstructions since the 16th century the beauty of the Shire Hall, built on Market Hill by the benefactor of Woodbridge, Thomas Seckford. He was the great Elizabethan of this little town and will not be forgotten. His Shire Hall is Flemish in design, and he set under it the old Corn Exchange, originally open so that carts could be driven through, but now bricked in. His almshouses have been rebuilt, but they are one of the noble spectacles of the town, a delightful long row set on a hill, the home of 30 poor men who wear Thomas Seckford’s silver badges, a few married couples, and a few women living in a separate house to nurse them when they are ill.

A little after Thomas Seckford’s day the Friends Meeting House was built (in 1678) and it has a simple graveyard in which we find, among flowers and trees, a poet’s grave. It is in a lane down which the feet of a host of men have walked to pay tribute to Bernard Barton. He lived here about 40 years, son of a Quaker maltster, starting life in shopkeeping and becoming clerk to the local corn merchant, whose daughter he married. He lost his wife within a year and was left with one child, Lucy, who lived to become the wife of another and more famous poet, Edward FitzGerald - an unhappy marriage as it proved, for they were not congenial, and agreed to part. Barton lived on as a bank clerk after his wife’s death, and his poetry was the chief interest of his life. He was one of Charles Lamb’s best friends, and a consoling influence to him in the desperate crisis of his life. When he was 36 he had so many admirers of his poems that they presented him with £1200, and a few years before he died Sir Robert Peel invited him to dine, and got for him a Civil List pension. His quiet life was brightened by visits from Lamb and FitzGerald, and one of the pictures it is pleasant to think of in this country scene is of these poets walking on the river bank. When Barton died in 1849 his biography was written by the hand that wrote the immortal translation of Omar Khayyam.

There is another old graveyard in Woodbridge in which lies the father of one man of fame and the grandfather of another; he was William Lankester, father of Edwin Lankester, the pioneer of public health whose son was the great Ray Lankester, one of the most delightful scientific men of our time. In this graveyard now stands the Congregational Chapel.

Still another small graveyard with a curious interest we come upon in the tiny walled garden of the Bull Hotel, the old coaching inn on Market Hill where Tennyson stayed. Edward FitzGerald had a room in a house near it for 13 years, and the house has a tablet with his initials on it. Through the hotel yard we come to the grave of George Carlow, who owned the inn in 1738, when he died and was buried here. He left to the inn a small charity to distribute bread each year to the poor, and the bread is still distributed at his grave. On the stone is the doggerel from Shakespeare's grave, blessing the men who spare these stones and cursing them who move these bones.

The old Ship Inn near the quay has been turned into cottages, but the Bell and the Crown both remain. The Bell Inn, with its overhanging timbers, has kept from generation to generation what is the only thing of its kind in Suffolk, and one of very few left in England, the old steelyard for weighing hay, wool, and hides. The Crown Inn has memories of the days when Woodbridge was busy building ships for the Navy, and even of the days before that, for from it there went out into the world an English seaman of the days of Francis Drake, the little known John Fox, who set free a number of Christian captives at Alexandria. His father owned the Crown. In later days the inn was owned by Peter Pett, the man of whom we read much in Pepys, who succeeded him at the Admiralty. He was a Commissioner of the Navy in the bad old days, and it is said to have been his habit to pack the well-paid ofiices with his relations. Pepys called him a knave who deserved to be hanged for his neglect, and declared that he paid himself for the entertainment he gave the king, that he sold timber to the Navy under another name, and so on. He was charged with being the cause of a disaster at Chatham and was sent to the Tower, but the matter was dropped as it was apparently brought forward merely to make him a scapegoat. Andrew Marvell put the case in these four lines:

After this loss, to relish discontent,
Some one must be accused by Parliament;
All our miscarriages on Pett must fall;
His name alone seems fit to answer all.


The fine Woodbridge School has outgrown its old buildings, and was rehoused last century with laboratories, workshops, swimming baths, and boarding houses. The 17th century buildings are now used as a free library under the trusteeship of the Seckford Governors, and there has been discovered in one of the library windows in our own time a pane of glass of much historic interest. Mr V. B. Redstone, the librarian (a great authority on Suffolk’s history), discovered that certain old scratches on the pane were actually names upside down, and he found the names to be those of Francis Light and his schoolfriend James Lynn, who became a surgeon. The names were scratched on the pane about 1747, and in view of its curious interest the glass has now been taken out and preserved as a witness that here lived a Woodbridge schoolboy all too little known to fame.

Francis Light, who went out into the world from this old grammar school, is a striking figure in the annals of the British Empire, for he founded the city of Penang and was the father of the founder of the city of Adelaide. Penang has his statue and Adelaide has his son’s. Remarkable stories have been told about him, but the old story that he married the daughter of a king is not true. He found the Island of Penang a vast jungle of 100 square miles with only 50 people on it, and left it a prosperous place with 10,000 people, having watched over the interests of settlers and natives so that they mourned him as a father. The East India Company, for whom he secured the island, agreed to pay tribute “to last so long as the sun and moon shall give light.” This remarkable man was born at Dallinghoo, where we  come upon him again.

On the school’s roll of fame is the honoured name of Edwin Lankester, the name of John Brinkley (Ireland’s first Astronomer Royal), and that of Baron Hatherley, Lord Chancellor. Edwin Lankester was plunged into poverty as a boy by the collapse of an investment in property, and he left school at 12 to become a watchmaker’s apprentice. He grew up to be a famous botanist and naturalist, but is chiefly remembered for his books on the microscope and his services to public health, which began when he was a coroner. He was shocked by some of the things he discovered, and made a sensation by insisting on proper evidence of the cause of death whatever it might cost. John Brinkley, the astronomer, was made a bishop by George the Fourth. Lord Chancellor Hatherley, brought up at his grandmother’s house in Woodbridge, lived through 80 years of last century, and before he was 30 was earning £1000 a year at the Bar. He was a good churchman and a good Liberal, and it fell to him to announce that Lord Rothschild should take his seat in the House of Lords. He was for more than 40 years a Sunday School teacher in the parish of St Margaret’s, Westminster.

Woodbridge has an interest, as we have seen, in the Australian city of Adelaide which was founded by Sir Francis Light’s son William, and Australia has another town founded by a Woodbridge boy, for George Miles, emigrating from here about the middle of last century, founded a settlement and named it after his own town. There should also be remembered in any description of Woodbridge the well known Suffolk artist Thomas Churchyard, a solicitor by profession but a painter of much skill, a friend of Edward FitzGerald, and often mentioned in his letters. Though FitzGerald himself is perhaps the most famous man who has been familiar in these streets, he has no memorial except his initials on the house where he lived on Market Hill, and the house called Little Grange, in which he lived after that; we come upon him at Boulge, where he lies. We talked in a shop at Woodbridge to two ladies whose grandmother had been housekeeper to FitzGerald, and had often told them of the strange figure walking about with a wide hat and a flowing cloak. It was while he was living on Market Hill that Tennyson came to see him, and it would seem that the meat for dinner was tough, and that FitzGerald was crochety.

We have yet to come to the finest building in Woodbridge, which is, of course, the 15th century church of St Mary, set on a hill and built of black flints, with a tower 108 feet high. The walls of the tower are neatly built, the flints forming designs, the corners crowned with filials and weathercocks. Over the porch are set in niches three figures of the Madonna, St Anne, and St Cecilia, all with crosses, and in the spandrels of the doorway is St Michael with the dragon. Among the fine treasures within are fragments of John Albrede’s 15th century screen still in their place, and 14 panels of the screen are preserved with traces of portraits of saints fading away on them. The marks of a lost brass which had two figures on it suggest that the brass may have been in memory of John Albrede and his wife. A brass of a child’s figure is to John Shorlond, a boy of seven who died in the last years of Queen Elizabeth, and there is a brass tablet to John Sayre, who died in the last year of Shakespeare’s life, and has in his epitaph this touch of humour:

Reader, thou shalt find
Heaven takes the best, still leaves the worst behind.


A monument to Jeffrey Pitman, fashioned in marble and painted and gilded, has five kneeling Elizabethans wearing great rulfs. Pitman was a local tanner who became Sheriff of Suffolk in the time of James the First, and was a liberal benefactor of the town. By his tomb hang two old helmets about 400 years old.

The lovely font has been one of the best in Suffolk, but has lost the colour given to it in the 15th century. Its carvings represent the  Seven Sacraments, and one of the panels shows an imp, who is supposed to be fleeing through the door of the church porch; the font also has a carving of the Crucifixion, and on its shaft is a pot of lilies, symbol of the Madonna. It is in this church that the good Thomas Seckford lies, but this noble benefactor of the town has no sculptured splendour to preserve his name. He needs it not. If we seek his monument we look around - at his Shire Hall, his almshouses, and at the beautiful Woodbridge Abbey, now a private house in the old monastic grounds near the church, and still with some of its Tudor structure unspoilt since the Seckford family owned it.

Woodbridge has known more famous men, but none who served the town so well as Thomas Seckford. He was a lawyer and member of Parliament for Ipswich in Queen Elizabeth’s day, and he helped William Harrison with a book on the rivers and streams of England, a dream which has not yet been properly fulfilled, for not even the Government of this country has a list of its rivers; there is no complete book on them in existence. A more notable service still did Thomas Seckford render to this country, for to his generosity we owe the work of Christopher Saxton, who made the first proper maps of England. His was the first map survey of our counties, and it is to Thomas Seckford that we are indebted for them, for Saxton was his servant and Seckford paid for the maps, which took five years to make, and were dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.

It was here at Woodbridge that we came upon what we must regard as one of the most sacred and astonishing things we have seen in all our tour of England, the head of Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwell ’s Head

IT is an almost incredible spectacle with the hair still clinging to it, with teeth still there, with the forehead we are familiar with (even with the marks of the wart), and we are indebted to Canon Wilkinson for allowing us to see this astonishing relic of our greatest man of action. We found it wrapt in silk, enclosed in many outer wrappings, and kept in a box, from which it was taken so that we might hold it in our hands and look at this uncanny thing, and say, Alas, poor Cromwell! where be your great orations, your thunderings, which were wont to set kings and parliaments and armies in a roar?

By an act of revenge unthinkable to us now the body of Cromwell was dragged from its grave among our kings and hanged at Tyburn, and the head was stuck with a spike through the skull on Westminster Hall, where it stayed for 25 years, until at last it was blown down into the road by an angry wind, picked up by a sentry or a passer-by, and long kept in concealment, for a placard was issued for its recovery, and the finder apparently feared he would be blamed. Eventually it was sold to a member of the Russell family into which Cromwell’s youngest daughter had married, and after this the record tells that the head passed into the possession of an actor who, being in need of money, exhibited it, and finally sold it for exhibition to James Cox, a jeweller in Shoe Lane, who showed it for a time and then sold it to a syndicate of three people. The last survivor of the three was a lady, who, becoming superstitious about her gruesome property, first placed it in the custody of her doctor, Dr Josiah Henry Wilkinson, living at Shortlands in Kent, and then gave it to him. Mr Wilkinson drew up a detailed history of what had happened to the head between the time it was at Westminster and when it reached him. From him it has descended through generations of Wilkinsons to Canon Horace Wilkinson who showed it to us.

We do not think there can be any reasonable doubt that it is the head of the Protector. It has been subjected to every enquiry possible, and has been scientifically examined by Dr Karl Pearson and Dr G. M. Morant, who have applied every known test, and after every possible measurement and comparison with masks and portraits, and every investigation of associated circumstances, have come to the conclusion that it is morally certain that the head is the actual head of Cromwell. These are the last words of their report, which is accompanied by 100 plates:

We started this enquiry in an agnostic frame of mind, tinged only by scepticism as to whether the positive statements made in the past were not based solely on impressions unjustified by any attempt at a scientific investigation. We finish our enquiry with the conclusion that it is a moral certainty drawn from the circumstantial evidence that the Wilkinson head is the genuine head of Oliver Cromwell, Protector of the Commonwealth.

In our grand tour of England we have been in the bare attic of Newburgh Priory in Yorkshire, where it is believed the body of Cromwell was taken by his daughter Lady Fauconberg. It is supposed that the body was walled up in what is still called Cromwell’s room, but the wall has never been opened. If it should be true that the body is there, the nation has now the opportunity for a national act of atonement which will restore the Protector to the Abbey, and it is difficult to conceive a more impressive spectacle than the national burial of our hero with the fame and glory of nearly three centuries heaped upon his name.

St John, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Excepting the peculiar spire St John is a run of the mill Victorian build with little to no interest, but it was open which has to be a plus in its favour.

ST JOHN, St John’s Hill. 1844-5 by John M. Clark to a design by his friend, a local builder, Alfred Lockwood. Yellow brick, in the lancet style, with a W tower that turns higher up into a funny spire. The tower is square below, the spire octagonal, first with long open lancets, and only then steeply pyramidal. The side windows of the church are groups of three stepped lancets. Coved ceiling with ribs and bosses. Penetrations connect the windows with it. Canted-forward W gallery.

St John (4)

Looking west (2)

WOODBRIDGE. It is one of the most delightful small towns of this enchanting countryside, though as crowded with houses as its past is crowded with memories; its long street has hardly an inch to spare. The river bed has silted up since Woodbridge built ships for the Navy, but still the barges carry coal up the River Deben, and still there is much yachting here, and flourishing industries that have to do with ships.

It is one of the towns in which it is pleasant to walk about for the sake of old buildings, old inns, and old houses, and as we walk there come continually to mind the names of famous men who have walked before us here. This town has richly served its country, and the sights we see have been familiar to men whose names are known far and wide about the world. The National Trust is now the guardian of a beautiful site by the river that all Woodbridge people have loved, known as Kyson, and another delightful green space now belonging to all is Elmshurst Park, which has grown out of a beautiful private garden. Kyson was given to the nation by Mr R. C. Notcut, Elmhurst Park was presented to the town by Lord Woodbridge.

It is good to find that the Post Office has admirably done its duty to a fine town by joining hands with the Suffolk Preservation Society in preserving an ancient house. On the site of this 16th century house the new post office has been set up in such a way as to preserve the finest architectural features, the plaster ceilings in the rooms, and a Jacobean fireplace. It is an example the Post Oflice might well adopt in all our ancient towns.

In the same way there has been preserved through all its reconstructions since the 16th century the beauty of the Shire Hall, built on Market Hill by the benefactor of Woodbridge, Thomas Seckford. He was the great Elizabethan of this little town and will not be forgotten. His Shire Hall is Flemish in design, and he set under it the old Corn Exchange, originally open so that carts could be driven through, but now bricked in. His almshouses have been rebuilt, but they are one of the noble spectacles of the town, a delightful long row set on a hill, the home of 30 poor men who wear Thomas Seckford’s silver badges, a few married couples, and a few women living in a separate house to nurse them when they are ill.

A little after Thomas Seckford’s day the Friends Meeting House was built (in 1678) and it has a simple graveyard in which we find, among flowers and trees, a poet’s grave. It is in a lane down which the feet of a host of men have walked to pay tribute to Bernard Barton. He lived here about 40 years, son of a Quaker maltster, starting life in shopkeeping and becoming clerk to the local corn merchant, whose daughter he married. He lost his wife within a year and was left with one child, Lucy, who lived to become the wife of another and more famous poet, Edward FitzGerald - an unhappy marriage as it proved, for they were not congenial, and agreed to part. Barton lived on as a bank clerk after his wife’s death, and his poetry was the chief interest of his life. He was one of Charles Lamb’s best friends, and a consoling influence to him in the desperate crisis of his life. When he was 36 he had so many admirers of his poems that they presented him with £1200, and a few years before he died Sir Robert Peel invited him to dine, and got for him a Civil List pension. His quiet life was brightened by visits from Lamb and FitzGerald, and one of the pictures it is pleasant to think of in this country scene is of these poets walking on the river bank. When Barton died in 1849 his biography was written by the hand that wrote the immortal translation of Omar Khayyam.

There is another old graveyard in Woodbridge in which lies the father of one man of fame and the grandfather of another; he was William Lankester, father of Edwin Lankester, the pioneer of public health whose son was the great Ray Lankester, one of the most delightful scientific men of our time. In this graveyard now stands the Congregational Chapel.

Still another small graveyard with a curious interest we come upon in the tiny walled garden of the Bull Hotel, the old coaching inn on Market Hill where Tennyson stayed. Edward FitzGerald had a room in a house near it for 13 years, and the house has a tablet with his initials on it. Through the hotel yard we come to the grave of George Carlow, who owned the inn in 1738, when he died and was buried here. He left to the inn a small charity to distribute bread each year to the poor, and the bread is still distributed at his grave. On the stone is the doggerel from Shakespeare's grave, blessing the men who spare these stones and cursing them who move these bones.

The old Ship Inn near the quay has been turned into cottages, but the Bell and the Crown both remain. The Bell Inn, with its overhanging timbers, has kept from generation to generation what is the only thing of its kind in Suffolk, and one of very few left in England, the old steelyard for weighing hay, wool, and hides. The Crown Inn has memories of the days when Woodbridge was busy building ships for the Navy, and even of the days before that, for from it there went out into the world an English seaman of the days of Francis Drake, the little known John Fox, who set free a number of Christian captives at Alexandria. His father owned the Crown. In later days the inn was owned by Peter Pett, the man of whom we read much in Pepys, who succeeded him at the Admiralty. He was a Commissioner of the Navy in the bad old days, and it is said to have been his habit to pack the well-paid ofiices with his relations. Pepys called him a knave who deserved to be hanged for his neglect, and declared that he paid himself for the entertainment he gave the king, that he sold timber to the Navy under another name, and so on. He was charged with being the cause of a disaster at Chatham and was sent to the Tower, but the matter was dropped as it was apparently brought forward merely to make him a scapegoat. Andrew Marvell put the case in these four lines:

After this loss, to relish discontent,
Some one must be accused by Parliament;
All our miscarriages on Pett must fall;
His name alone seems fit to answer all.


The fine Woodbridge School has outgrown its old buildings, and was rehoused last century with laboratories, workshops, swimming baths, and boarding houses. The 17th century buildings are now used as a free library under the trusteeship of the Seckford Governors, and there has been discovered in one of the library windows in our own time a pane of glass of much historic interest. Mr V. B. Redstone, the librarian (a great authority on Suffolk’s history), discovered that certain old scratches on the pane were actually names upside down, and he found the names to be those of Francis Light and his schoolfriend James Lynn, who became a surgeon. The names were scratched on the pane about 1747, and in view of its curious interest the glass has now been taken out and preserved as a witness that here lived a Woodbridge schoolboy all too little known to fame.

Francis Light, who went out into the world from this old grammar school, is a striking figure in the annals of the British Empire, for he founded the city of Penang and was the father of the founder of the city of Adelaide. Penang has his statue and Adelaide has his son’s. Remarkable stories have been told about him, but the old story that he married the daughter of a king is not true. He found the Island of Penang a vast jungle of 100 square miles with only 50 people on it, and left it a prosperous place with 10,000 people, having watched over the interests of settlers and natives so that they mourned him as a father. The East India Company, for whom he secured the island, agreed to pay tribute “to last so long as the sun and moon shall give light.” This remarkable man was born at Dallinghoo, where we  come upon him again.

On the school’s roll of fame is the honoured name of Edwin Lankester, the name of John Brinkley (Ireland’s first Astronomer Royal), and that of Baron Hatherley, Lord Chancellor. Edwin Lankester was plunged into poverty as a boy by the collapse of an investment in property, and he left school at 12 to become a watchmaker’s apprentice. He grew up to be a famous botanist and naturalist, but is chiefly remembered for his books on the microscope and his services to public health, which began when he was a coroner. He was shocked by some of the things he discovered, and made a sensation by insisting on proper evidence of the cause of death whatever it might cost. John Brinkley, the astronomer, was made a bishop by George the Fourth. Lord Chancellor Hatherley, brought up at his grandmother’s house in Woodbridge, lived through 80 years of last century, and before he was 30 was earning £1000 a year at the Bar. He was a good churchman and a good Liberal, and it fell to him to announce that Lord Rothschild should take his seat in the House of Lords. He was for more than 40 years a Sunday School teacher in the parish of St Margaret’s, Westminster.

Woodbridge has an interest, as we have seen, in the Australian city of Adelaide which was founded by Sir Francis Light’s son William, and Australia has another town founded by a Woodbridge boy, for George Miles, emigrating from here about the middle of last century, founded a settlement and named it after his own town. There should also be remembered in any description of Woodbridge the well known Suffolk artist Thomas Churchyard, a solicitor by profession but a painter of much skill, a friend of Edward FitzGerald, and often mentioned in his letters. Though FitzGerald himself is perhaps the most famous man who has been familiar in these streets, he has no memorial except his initials on the house where he lived on Market Hill, and the house called Little Grange, in which he lived after that; we come upon him at Boulge, where he lies. We talked in a shop at Woodbridge to two ladies whose grandmother had been housekeeper to FitzGerald, and had often told them of the strange figure walking about with a wide hat and a flowing cloak. It was while he was living on Market Hill that Tennyson came to see him, and it would seem that the meat for dinner was tough, and that FitzGerald was crochety.

We have yet to come to the finest building in Woodbridge, which is, of course, the 15th century church of St Mary, set on a hill and built of black flints, with a tower 108 feet high. The walls of the tower are neatly built, the flints forming designs, the corners crowned with filials and weathercocks. Over the porch are set in niches three figures of the Madonna, St Anne, and St Cecilia, all with crosses, and in the spandrels of the doorway is St Michael with the dragon. Among the fine treasures within are fragments of John Albrede’s 15th century screen still in their place, and 14 panels of the screen are preserved with traces of portraits of saints fading away on them. The marks of a lost brass which had two figures on it suggest that the brass may have been in memory of John Albrede and his wife. A brass of a child’s figure is to John Shorlond, a boy of seven who died in the last years of Queen Elizabeth, and there is a brass tablet to John Sayre, who died in the last year of Shakespeare’s life, and has in his epitaph this touch of humour:

Reader, thou shalt find
Heaven takes the best, still leaves the worst behind.


A monument to Jeffrey Pitman, fashioned in marble and painted and gilded, has five kneeling Elizabethans wearing great rulfs. Pitman was a local tanner who became Sheriff of Suffolk in the time of James the First, and was a liberal benefactor of the town. By his tomb hang two old helmets about 400 years old.

The lovely font has been one of the best in Suffolk, but has lost the colour given to it in the 15th century. Its carvings represent the  Seven Sacraments, and one of the panels shows an imp, who is supposed to be fleeing through the door of the church porch; the font also has a carving of the Crucifixion, and on its shaft is a pot of lilies, symbol of the Madonna. It is in this church that the good Thomas Seckford lies, but this noble benefactor of the town has no sculptured splendour to preserve his name. He needs it not. If we seek his monument we look around - at his Shire Hall, his almshouses, and at the beautiful Woodbridge Abbey, now a private house in the old monastic grounds near the church, and still with some of its Tudor structure unspoilt since the Seckford family owned it.

Woodbridge has known more famous men, but none who served the town so well as Thomas Seckford. He was a lawyer and member of Parliament for Ipswich in Queen Elizabeth’s day, and he helped William Harrison with a book on the rivers and streams of England, a dream which has not yet been properly fulfilled, for not even the Government of this country has a list of its rivers; there is no complete book on them in existence. A more notable service still did Thomas Seckford render to this country, for to his generosity we owe the work of Christopher Saxton, who made the first proper maps of England. His was the first map survey of our counties, and it is to Thomas Seckford that we are indebted for them, for Saxton was his servant and Seckford paid for the maps, which took five years to make, and were dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.

It was here at Woodbridge that we came upon what we must regard as one of the most sacred and astonishing things we have seen in all our tour of England, the head of Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwell ’s Head

IT is an almost incredible spectacle with the hair still clinging to it, with teeth still there, with the forehead we are familiar with (even with the marks of the wart), and we are indebted to Canon Wilkinson for allowing us to see this astonishing relic of our greatest man of action. We found it wrapt in silk, enclosed in many outer wrappings, and kept in a box, from which it was taken so that we might hold it in our hands and look at this uncanny thing, and say, Alas, poor Cromwell! where be your great orations, your thunderings, which were wont to set kings and parliaments and armies in a roar?

By an act of revenge unthinkable to us now the body of Cromwell was dragged from its grave among our kings and hanged at Tyburn, and the head was stuck with a spike through the skull on Westminster Hall, where it stayed for 25 years, until at last it was blown down into the road by an angry wind, picked up by a sentry or a passer-by, and long kept in concealment, for a placard was issued for its recovery, and the finder apparently feared he would be blamed. Eventually it was sold to a member of the Russell family into which Cromwell’s youngest daughter had married, and after this the record tells that the head passed into the possession of an actor who, being in need of money, exhibited it, and finally sold it for exhibition to James Cox, a jeweller in Shoe Lane, who showed it for a time and then sold it to a syndicate of three people. The last survivor of the three was a lady, who, becoming superstitious about her gruesome property, first placed it in the custody of her doctor, Dr Josiah Henry Wilkinson, living at Shortlands in Kent, and then gave it to him. Mr Wilkinson drew up a detailed history of what had happened to the head between the time it was at Westminster and when it reached him. From him it has descended through generations of Wilkinsons to Canon Horace Wilkinson who showed it to us.

We do not think there can be any reasonable doubt that it is the head of the Protector. It has been subjected to every enquiry possible, and has been scientifically examined by Dr Karl Pearson and Dr G. M. Morant, who have applied every known test, and after every possible measurement and comparison with masks and portraits, and every investigation of associated circumstances, have come to the conclusion that it is morally certain that the head is the actual head of Cromwell. These are the last words of their report, which is accompanied by 100 plates:

We started this enquiry in an agnostic frame of mind, tinged only by scepticism as to whether the positive statements made in the past were not based solely on impressions unjustified by any attempt at a scientific investigation. We finish our enquiry with the conclusion that it is a moral certainty drawn from the circumstantial evidence that the Wilkinson head is the genuine head of Oliver Cromwell, Protector of the Commonwealth.

In our grand tour of England we have been in the bare attic of Newburgh Priory in Yorkshire, where it is believed the body of Cromwell was taken by his daughter Lady Fauconberg. It is supposed that the body was walled up in what is still called Cromwell’s room, but the wall has never been opened. If it should be true that the body is there, the nation has now the opportunity for a national act of atonement which will restore the Protector to the Abbey, and it is difficult to conceive a more impressive spectacle than the national burial of our hero with the fame and glory of nearly three centuries heaped upon his name.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Woodbridge cemetery, Suffolk

Having delivered the youngest to Stansted Airport at 5.30am, and despite the generally cold and gloomy weather, I decided to act on my decision to visit Woodbridge. Unfortunately at the time I failed to notice that I only covered half of the cemetery - on the ground it is not apparent that it is split in half - so a revisit is required.

Frederick Sharman 1899 (1)

Farrett grave

William Amos 1918 (2)