Thursday, September 13, 2007
Land of the Iceni
The area now known as Norfolk was once the territory of the Ancient British tribe called the Iceni whose most famous member was a female warrior called Bouddica (or Boadicea)who came close to defeating the Romans in 61AD. She led a rebellion after the Romans flogged her and raped her daughters. Among the Celts it was quite normal for women to be both tribal chieftains and warriors. Norfolk is a rather more peaceful place now but it has a long and fascinating history. On the first day of my trip I visited a lovely moated 15th Century manor house called Oxburgh Hall. It's a National Trust property so, of course, there are no photographs of the interior. This is actually no great loss as it's the outside which is so attractive, the inside has been largely Victorianized and the only really interesting and attractive bit was the marvellous Priest's Hole which, wonder of wonders, you are allowed to go into. This is easier said than done, the entrance is a narrow opening in the floor going into the hiding place at an angle. Dear readers, I forgot that I'm 61 and went down there! Then I rather wished I hadn't as it was tiny with no windows of course, and rather claustrophobic. I began to wonder whether I'd actually be able to get out again especially when I was followed down by a tall, well made man who got stuck halfway!!! He finally managed to wriggle through and there was just about room for the two of us. Happily getting out turned out to be much easier than getting in for both of us but I was decidedly relieved to be back above ground again. It made me realise how appalling it must have been for the Catholic priests stuck in there for days at a time with only a candle for illumination. The Bedingfields remained a Catholic family throughout the reign of Elizabeth I and during the English Civil War they were Royalists in a decidedly Parliamentarian area. The Priest's Hole would have had a considerable amount of use I should think.
You could climb up a narrow spiral staircase and go out onto the roof of one of the towers so I did that too and had it practically to myself. This is one of the views from up there.
This is the Gatehouse and is what you see if you are standing in front of the bridge over the moat though from the photograph you wouldn't guess that the bridge is there.
These swans appeared swimming along the moat and looked so regal that I couldn't resist taking their picture.
A Red Admiral butterfly taken in the woodlands surrounding the manor house.
As I turned into the lane leading to Oxburgh Hall there was also another sign to the 'Iceni Village and Museum' so after visiting Oxburgh I continued down the road to find out what the Iceni Village had to offer. It was rather fun but not, I suspect, entirely archaeologically accurate! This was the entrance, of which the little guide book says ' although there is no proof that the Iceni used this type of entrance, drawbridges were well known to the Romans.' Hmmm,yes, well........here it is anyway complete with heads taken from defeated enemy warriors.
This is a model of a chariot similar to those that would have been used by some Celtic warriors and is reasonably accurate I think.
This is a so-so reconstruction of a Celtic round house which would have been used by the head of an extended family with lesser lights using the long house in the background. I must admit that, having worked in an archaeologically accurately built and equipped roundhouse at Francis Prior's site at Flag Fen, I found this a bit disappointing. As a day out for a family with young children it's quite good fun though.
The rest of the Museum included a rather pleasant Nature Trail and I took this photo of what may or may not be a dragonfly called a Common Darter:)
Another part of the Museum site was this lovely 17th century cottage, tucked away in the woods, which is my favourite of all that I saw, I think this would have belonged to the local wisewoman :)
I took several photos of the inside but only really have room for one here which is the kitchen. Probably a bit pristine looking for our wisewoman.....
Nearby was the ruin of St Mary's church thought to be one of the oldest churches in England built around 628AD. It has a beautiful round apse and it was apparently converted and used as a house for the parish priest from around the mid 1500s.
This is the interior of the rounded apse with the sun streaming through an upper window causing the bright spot in the centre.
The middle day of the trip was the funeral but on the third day I spent the morning in and around the small town of Dereham.
Isn't this a delightful cottage? It is in Dereham and dates from 1502, it's built of brick, flint and wattle and daub. The front is decorated with coloured pargetting which is ornamental plasterwork.
This is a close-up of the pargetting. Delightful as it is, this cottage was the home of a truly appalling man called Bishop Bonner who was responsible for burning over 200 heretics between 1553 and 1558 during the reign of Queen Mary who was known as Bloody Mary.
As ever, clicking on the photos will improve them enormously.
I'm hoping to have time to do another post on Norfolk sometime tomorrow in between having a manicure and pedicure, a birthday lunch and packing. We'll see:)