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Tag Archives: Suffolk

  • Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings by Martyn Taylor

    Debenhams, Charter Square. (Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    When I was asked to write something about this subject I thought the choice would be challenging, it wasn’t, after all the town I was born into has numerous interesting buildings; many within the medieval grid of what is most probably the oldest purposely laid out town in the country from the 11th Century. But what to start with? Well I chose to commence with Debenhams Store on The Arc, a very modern shopping centre in the town. Controversially futuristic in appearance and not very Bury St Edmunds are just some of the descriptions used by people since it was built and opened in 2009. From there the iconic Abbeygate was probably the most obvious to proceed with, it sums up the power of the Benedictine Abbey that owned and controlled Bury St Edmunds for over 500 years whilst the noble Norman Tower, its counterpart further along, is now the belfry for the Cathedral the last to be finished in the country, a triumph of modern craftsmen. Nearby is the wonderful St Marys Church, the final resting place of Queen Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk the youngest sister of Henry VIII. Her subdued and under-stated tomb surprising to all, considering her status in life at one time, Queen of France. St Mary’s magnificent Angel Roof above one of the longest naves of any parish church in the country must be appreciated for the quality of its medieval workmanship, superlatives abound for what is today the Civic Church of the Town.

    Chapel of the Charnel, Great Churchyard. (Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    There is an eclectic mix of buildings in the book, creating lists is never ideal so I would say to potential readers consider what is within and what is without. Everyone has opinions of what is good architecture, but I have tried to get a balance of the construction of the buildings and their descriptions and some of the stories behind their occupants. The nefarious Arundel Coke who once lived in St Denys on Honey Hill is a case in point. Having lost his wealth in the greedy investment scandal known to history as ‘The South Sea Bubble’ he elicited the help of an assassin to do his dirty work, that of murdering his well-off brother-in-law, Edward Crisp. Unfortunately, it did not go as the script intended, Crisp survived the brutal attack and Coke and his accomplice, John Woodburn, ended up on the gallows.

    Public buildings are well represented, alms Houses, hotels and public houses also. One of these, The Nutshell, is the smallest in the country, as far as I am concerned there are no other contenders! Two buildings not far from each other have unusual names, Goodfellows named after four brave brothers who fought in WWI, three of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice and Notice to Quit Cottages, the origins of which I have yet to fathom out. The Great Churchyard, the scene of the murderous attempt on Edward Crisp’s life is where I finish with the 50th entrant in the book, that of The Charnel House. This consecrated bone depository from 1300 has various plaques on its exterior to The Good, Bad and Unlucky. Bartholomew Gosnold the good founder of Jamestown, Sarah Lloyd for burglarising her employer’s home with her lover and the unlucky Mary Haselton struck down by lightning whilst saying her prayers. For a town so steeped in history Bury St Edmunds punches far above its weight, the many people who come here as tourists and stroll around the beautiful Abbey Gardens are amazed and ask, “Why have we not come here before”? There is no real answer other than to say just keep coming back!

    Martyn Taylor's new book Bury St Edmunds in 50 Buildings is avialable for purchase now.

  • Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk by John Ling

    Herringfleet Mill set against a spectacular summer sky. (Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk, Amberley Publishing)

    Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is a follow-up to my previous book for Amberley, Windmills of Norfolk (2015). As its title indicates, the new book includes watermills to reflect the rich diversity of milling in Suffolk over the centuries. Long before the first windmill turned a sail the county already had many water-powered mills, most of which were small and primitive structures using a single pair of millstones. Some watermill sites date back to Saxon times, though the mills themselves have been rebuilt or enlarged numerous times over that period of time.

    Suffolk was one of the first English counties to embrace the newfangled windmill in the late 12th century and many hundreds were built here during the next 700 years. The post mill was the earliest type of corn mill, followed by tower and smock types. Drainage mills or windpumps were primarily used to drain low-lying marshland but could also pump water from wells.

    Woodbridge Tide Mill has become a Living Museum. (Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk, Amberley Publishing)

    This book takes an in-depth look at most of the county’s surviving mills, some of which are still capable of working. Many others have been converted to family homes or holiday accommodation. Several watermills have become hotels or restaurants. The book acknowledges a number of the many mills that sadly no longer exist, including some of the long lost giants. It also traces the rise and fall of traditional windmills and watermills and looks at the reasons behind their decline. Windmills of various types outnumber surviving watermills in Suffolk and this is reflected in the amount of space devoted to each. The book is intended to inform and entertain those already interested in mills and also to introduce newcomers to these ancient machines. It includes histories of all featured mills along with one or more photograph(s) of each. The book includes relevant facts and figures but does not claim to be an exhaustive academic study.

     Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is mainly illustrated with new colour photographs specially taken for this publication. This necessitated several trips around Suffolk and led me to many locations I had not previously visited. Other images have kindly been supplied by various contributors. Information regarding the location of each mill is included to assist those who wish to visit or view them. Almost all of the main featured mills can be seen from the roadside and some are open to the public on at least a part-time basis. The two mills pictured here represent the wind and water varieties and both are in full working order. Herringfleet Mill is still operated by volunteers on open days and Woodbridge Tide Mill is open to the public as a Living Museum.

    John Ling's new book Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Aldeburgh to Southwold by Terry Philpot

    By 1910, what was left of All Saints Church, Dunwich, was in danger of toppling into the sea, as it did twelve years later. (Courtesy of Michael Rouse, Secret Aldeburgh to Southwold, Amberley Publishing)

    Suffolk, particularly Southwold to Aldeburgh, still retains a beguiling, largely unspoiled remoteness. The flat landscape is dotted with farms, the big sky illuminates the littleness of life, and the ruined abbey and castle bespeak a rich past.

    In traversing this landscape, I confess to a personal connection, which has enhanced the pleasure of writing this book. The novelist Maggie Hemingway was born in Orford but moved to New Zealand when she was a small child and later settled in Deal in Kent. Yet, when she crossed the Stour at Manningtree on the train, she would say, ‘Now I’m home.’ My attachment is more distant, but nonetheless deeply felt. My paternal great-grandfather moved to London in the 1860s, leaving behind the ghosts of generations who had lived in the part of the county that is the subject of this book. The names of the villages through which I have often passed are redolent of family births, marriages, burials and places of earning a living (or sometimes not). My great-great-grandparents were married at Wenhaston in the church of the great doom painting, though they could never have seen it for at that time it was still hidden beneath Edward VI’s Protestant plaster. I have been coming to this area for forty years and whenever I cross the Essex-Suffolk border I still experience something of Maggie Hemingway’s sense of homecoming.

    The Martello Tower, Slaughden. (Courtesy of D. Kirkham, Landmark Trust, Secret Aldeburgh to Southwold, Amberley Publishing)

    So far as people are concerned, I have attempted to write of the subject’s association with the town or village, rather than offer a potted biography of their lives.

    Alas, in some cases, there is nothing to say as I could trace no more than a birthplace – like that of the great documentary film-maker Humphrey Jennings (Walberswick) and the Victorian photographer Robert Howlett (Theberton). While P. D. James had a home in Southwold and also set some of her books in the county, she wrote an entertaining and charming memoir, Time to be in Earnest, but this tells very little about her Suffolk life, other than that she entertained family and friends and was a regular communicant at St Edmund’s Church. (Her fellow crime writer, Ruth Rendell, lived in Babergh, which is outside the geographical scope of my remit.)

     

     

    Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh. (Courtesy of Colin Huggins, Secret Aldeburgh to Southwold, Amberley Publishing)

    With two necessary exceptions, I have drawn a line by writing about only those who are dead. Ronald Blythe, happily still writing at ninety-three, is inextricable from what I call the Aldeburgh Festival Circle. A later friend of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears (she met them in 1971, only five years before the composer’s death) was the then young but accomplished novelist Susan Hill.

    Fortunately, the biographies of buildings and places are (usually) far less well-hidden than those of people, but there were many discoveries there too – even in an area already well mapped.

    The reader or visitor asks: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Whether events, buildings or people are familiar or obscured I have attempted to answer those questions and, in so doing, reveal their secrets.

    Terry Philpot's new book Secret Aldeburgh to Southwold is avialable for purchase now.

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