Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Suffolk Summer Part One

I mentioned in a recent post a book I have called Suffolk Summer by John Appleby, he was a member of the USAAF who was stationed at Lavenham in Suffolk and then Thorpe Abbots in Norfolk during WW2. He acquired a bicycle and spent his leaves and days off exploring Suffolk. Quite early on he discovered the art of brass rubbing and from then on he visited as many churches as he could that had brasses worth seeing. Like John Appleby I spend as much time as I can exploring the villages and countryside when I go to Suffolk and since the life and history of the people largely centred around the church I tend to visit a lot of them.

The church in the photograph at the top is St Lawrence, Little Waldingfield which was built in the 14th century. John Appleby came here to do rubbings of the brasses - this one is John Wyncoll, a clothier who died in 1544.

The South Porch with its sundial - it looks very mellow and peaceful in the sunlight.

The Charity Boards on a wall inside the church. Wealthy people often left charitable bequests to assist the poor of their parish, many are still being distributed today. Whether this is the case with the 'Ten Loads of Wood' I don't know, a load of wood would have been very welcome to a poor family in a bitter winter but these days it may have been somehow converted to a cash payment.

This venerable old parish chest is over 700 years old, it dates from about 1300 and would have held the church valuables. There were three locks with each key held by a different person so that there was no danger of anyone making off with the contents.

This is the 14th century church of St Peter, Monks Eleigh, another church built with the wealth that came from wool and the manufacture of cloth. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see the bell which chimes the hours set in a cage on top of the tower.

You never know quite what you are going to come across in old churches, this is the parish bier made by the local carpenter in the late 1500s and used to carry coffins to and from the church. At each end there are two folding handles for the pall bearers to use.

Another unusual item in this church is the alms box fixed to a pillar and dated 1636 - three keyholes again you'll notice. They didn't seem to trust their vicars all that much in those days!

The beautiful stone font dates from the 13th century - I wonder how many babies have been baptized there in the last 800 years? Even in a small village like Monks Eleigh it must number several thousand.

As I walked down the road from the church I saw this charming scene which must be what most people visualize when they think of an English country cottage.

Chelsworth is one of the places that John Appleby mentions in his book, he calls it 'the loveliest village in Suffolk' and I'm inclined to agree with him. All Saints church is 13th century.

This medieval wall-painting of The Last Judgement was discovered in 1849 when the church was being re-decorated. During the Reformation all the brightly painted walls in churches were plastered or painted over and many were destroyed completely. Clicking on the photo will make it possible to see it more clearly.

I had a friendly little companion while looking round Chelsworth church.

One of the lovely cottages in the village, I love all the odd angles of the walls. The jetty ( where the top storey overhangs the lower one) is a sure sign of a medieval building.

Another of Chelsworth's attractive cottages, in June each year the village has a 'Gardens Open' to raise money for the upkeep of the church. There are around 20 gardens to visit and it's well worth going if you are in the area on Sunday June 28th. There's a plant stall and a cake stall, two of the gardens do teas, there are flowers in the church and best of all a chance to get a closer look at all these fabulous old places including the local manor house. I'm rather hoping to go myself this year - depends on my husband's cricket fixtures though!


Gracie said...

Thanks again for the pics and the history lesson. Awww........english cottages, how I like them!
Gracie at

Rosie said...

I've really enjoyed this post, Rowan, churches can tell us so much about village life and they were and in some places still are the heart of the place. These churches are lovely and the wall painting is amazing as is the surviving parish chest. Have you ever visited the north Norfolk churches of Walpole St Peter and Terrington St Clements? The wall and rood screen paintings are wonderful:) The open garden day at Chelsworth sounds lovely.

Wanda said...

Beautiful English cottages and churches...I could almost hear the bell ring...I like the small details...the chest with 3 locks and 3 separate keys...I love all the history and the beauty of your enjoying your many past posts Rowan...glad to have found you...Thanks for the wonderful tour.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Rowan. I've sent the link for it to my friend again. She's just discovering blogs. I wonder what happened to John Appleby, shall look him up. Sounds like he may have had ancestors in England. I learned some things here today like the jetty in medieval cottages - I shall scrutenise now cottages where I live. Hope you get to the open gardens.

Piecefulafternoon said...

What a lovely tour - I am amazed at the history available over there - would love to visit sometime.

Thimbleanna said...

Wow Rowan. It's all so beautiful. Thanks for taking us on this tour -- I'm so happy the "locals" enjoy the scenery -- all too often, we fail to enjoy what's in our own backyard. I'd love to be able to live in England some summer and just spend my days exploring all the lovely little villages. {Very Big Sigh.}

Sheila said...

Exploring old country churches is a wonderful way to spend the Summer. We were taken to our local churches as children and taught to do brass rubbings. I have been told some churches no longer allow it, is that true?
The old thatched and half timbered cottages, and those with the pink-wash, are straight off the chocolate boxes of my childhood.
Oh to be in England...!

ruthie said...

wonderful & so interesting. i love the cottages! faerietale. the medieval painting is amazing. i love spending hours walking around places like that soaking up the atmosphere & all the incredible workmanship.

Hollace said...

Wow, Rowan, it's so beautiful and you do such a wonderful job of photographing and displaying --you even have borders around the pictures. Sigh. I need to take some lessons on how to get my pictures and captions to stay put--they keep jumping around and no one is more surprised than I at the outcome. You seem to have yours all under perfect control.

By the way, I do like your new profile picture!

galant said...

Hello, Rowan, this is the first time I've visited your blog and I'm so glad I have ... I adore Suffolk, even though I live in Devon. I recall when we visited the church at Lavenham, I saw a memorial to a whole family of men, all with the same surname (so could only assume they were from the same family) who had perished in the First World War. Even all those years later, it brought tears to my eyes.
I have visited so many of the places you mention: Monks Eleigh, Bury St Edmunds, etc, but one of the churches I love is the Cathedral of the Marshes, Blythburgh. There is even a paragraph in a P D James novel (she set several of her books in Suffolk, did she not?) when Adam Dalgleish visits this church. Baroness James describes the interior as having a "pale, silvery whiteness". Three words, but so evocative of this wonderful Suffolk church.
Margaret Powling

PAT said...

J and I just read this post, together, Rowan. And what a wonderful post it is! We both thoroughly enjoyed your photos and words. Thank so much!!

Val said...

Thanks for the views of your part of England. Being a bell ringer my visits to churches take me to parts of Dorset I would never normally have visited.

I must post my photos of last Sunday morning!

Derrick said...

Hello Rowan,

I notice the Lark has risen to the top again! Beautiful for your Suffolk churches. That Suffolk pink is always in good supply isn't it? Although I have visited a few parts of Suffolk and Norfolk, there is obviously much more to see!

Granny Sue said...

How lovely! the cottages are so cute with their pastel paint, but I would bet the owners have tales to tell about living in them. The churches--it's hard to imagine the age of such buildings here in the US. Thank you for sharing these.

hippymummy said...

Hi Roan, once again thankyou for the lovely post. There is very little to beat the country village on a sunny day is there? The village i live in is nothing like this, too modern, most houses being post war (i think). Here the chapel has been converted into a home, sadly the fate of so many chapels these days, although thankfully again the chapel is only a hundred or so years old, nothing like the beauties found down in your end of the country. I used to live in cheshire and there ere some lovely old churches, "proper" churches as my nan called them. I think i really do need to start getting out and about again this year, i'm getting my confidence back now and think i can manage further distances without the fear of seizing up and being unable to get back home again.Time to start planning for the longer summer days methinks! Thankyou so much xXx

uphilldowndale said...

A lovely post, I think it fantastic they way in which the style of a 'typical' cottage varies so much across the UK

FireLight said...

Rowan, this is an outstanding effort--the music and the images--made this stop a meditation. I am not sure if I have ever seen a charity board. What a great idea! I must tell my priest about these. My father was once one of those WWII USAAF soldiers on a bicylce in your English countryside...but it remains a mystery to me even today exactly where. Though he did not write a book, he did instill in me a true love for England. This is such a joy to me; I cannot fully express in words how very special it is to visit here.

Anonymous said...

Hello Rowan,
I followed the link on the brass rubbing and found it very interesting. Did you try to rub some of the plates you saw? It's funny but as they write in the explanation that it is something like when children rub a coin using pencil and paper, a picture of my son rubbing his grandma's tablecloth using crayons and paper (and creating beautiful ornaments this way) a few days ago comes into my mind... :-)

Rowan said...

Lizzie, John Appleby came from Arkansas and was a Harvard graduate. I think he was a journalist before the War. He wrote several other books besides Suffolk Summer, mostly about early English kings. He died in 1974 and although he remained in touch with the local area of Bury St Edmunds he never returned to England. Sheila, I think you are right and that brass rubbing is no longer allowed by many churches although I think some have copies of the originals for people to use.
Petra - I've never tried brass rubbing myself but my husband used to do it when he was a student in the late 1960s.

Pam said...

This was fascinating Rowan. It is a first time visit here for me and very enjoyable. I love the sense of history in England.I hope I can speak for my fellow Aussies by saying we feel an item is old if it is from the 18oo's, our settlement history being so young. When I travel overseas I have a sense of wonder touching something that was made or constructed in very early centuries.I would indeed, enjoy seeing the many fascinating things you have shown- you have taken me there with this. Thank you.

Ragged Roses said...

You are so right Rowan, you never know what delights are hidden in an old English church. We have stumbled across so many beautiful buildings by just wandering round villages, lovely. Thanks for the photos.
Have a wonderful Easter

Bovey Belle said...

Another wonderful post Rowan. The Suffolk churches are wonderful. When I was younger I poo-poohed the idea of looking round churches. That was for boring old f*rts I thought. I have recently become one of those boring old f*rts!!!

Les Elmer said...

Hi Rowan. I stumbled onto your wonderful web page by idly typing in Suffolk Summer.. I've had the book years (it was my Grandad's who was born there), and in fact I want to be buried there (in the churchyard of All Saints at Great Ashfield, E of Bury). My Great Grandparents; Gt Gt Grandparents and many other Gt Uncles and Aunts already lie there. We've been very fortunate to have been back to Suffolk for a wonderful week in Jan 2008 (all 5 of our family all the way from New Zealand), and then my wife, youngest dau and I spent another lovely 3 weeks there in April last year. I have a Elmer family genea;logical page at where I try to share my deep love of the county with any visitors. Regards, Les Elmer, Auckland, NZ

Chris Cullen said...

Excellent blog - just found it.
I live in Chelsworth, next to the church and it's my cat in the photo.
John Appleby (writer of Suffolk Summer) knew my great-grandfather well (he dedicated to book to him).
Chris Cullen