Monday, 21 May 2012

A Ragged Ramble of Epic Proportions

Here are some highlights from a recent epic Ragged Ramble, which saw three intrepid Members head down to north Suffolk in search of antient delectations...

First of all, we stopped at Yelverton church (the only stop in Norfolk that day), and admired the beautiful contemporary glass in the porch - all fiery reds and golds. 

Among the many 'treasures' within the church, our eyes were drawn to this charming little brass image of a young woman, with sumptuous, hip-length flowing hair.

We shall return!
With a cry of 'Huzzah!' southwards we drove, pausing at the town of Harleston for a warm beveridge and hot buttered tea cakes. Refreshed, we began our exploration of Suffolk churches, starting with Fressingfield...

We unanimously agreed that the richly carved medieval benches were the standout feature of this church - definitely a cut above an ordinary parish church. It made us wonder whether this church once had monastic connections - or, failing that, a very wealthy patron. 

Stepping outside, two of our number took a little leisure and rested a while by the west tower of the church...

Arriving at Dennington church, we searched long and hard for a carving we had read about. Eventually we located it, carved into one of the aisle bench-ends; a 'sciapod' - the only original medieval carving of one in Britain. The Sciapod was a mythical figure which used it's single huge foot to shelter from the sun. The fifteenth century carver - perhaps in the cause of authenticity - felt it necessary to give this one two feet. We love this one!

We were also drawn (if you'll excuse the pun!) to this early nineteenth century sand tray, which was once used to teach generations of local children to write. 

... and then there are the remarkable parclose screens, with their delicate tracery and lofts. These are some of the finest that you will ever see.

Before moving on, we happened on this rustic little sign (presumably nineteenth century), threatening to punish boys caught throwing stones at the church windows

Next, Framlingham! We perused an antique centre and a couple of charity shops, before enjoying jam and scones in a tea house located in the town centre. We then walked to the grand church, final resting place of the medieval Dukes of Suffolk. Impressive, perhaps - but what really excited Munro was the presence of a veritable cloud of medieval 'graffiti'...

Our epic continued as we made our way to see the remarkable Victorian roof at Huntingfield, which was an attempt by Mildred Keyworth Holland (wife of the rector) during the 1860s, to re-create a medieval angel roof. 

Having enjoyed a splendid road-side fry-up on route this church, we were positively buoyant - and one would have to be a perfectly po-faced individual not to smile at the sight of this act of single-minded dedication by dear Mildred. 
"Champion!" exclaimed one of our number. 
"Huzzah!" we replied.

We were also fascinated to find this interesting grave marker, with, on one side, a 'Chrysolm' child wrapped in swaddling (indicating an infant who has died before being Christened). One would expect to see this in a medieval burial. Interesting then that this was actually an early Eighteenth century monument. An antiquarian sensibility at work here perhaps? 

And still we were not finished, for we were now wending our way to an old Ragged Ramblers favourite - the wonderfully atmospheric church at Rumburgh, bounded by its moat...

The squat-shouldered thirteenth century tower with its hipped roof is something of a puzzle...
"It can't make its mind up whether it's a tower or a west front", observed a Member, dryly. What is for sure, is that the setting of this church is simply enchanting...

It was evening by now, as we pulled up to St Margaret's, South Elmham. Time enough to take a good look at the gorgeous medieval graffito above the tower stair door - one of the very best we have encountered! 

Finally, we arrived at the church of St Cross at South Elmham. We were delighted by the sign which greeted us as we entered the churchyard...

If only all churches had such a delight in play! It is human touches like this that make all the difference. It seems to us that if life is to continue to be breathed into these special places then the doors must be kept open - both literally and metaphorically!

Finally, as we stood outside the church in the slowly fading light, we were treated to the magical sight of a barn owl in flight. In the fields beyond, we saw the ghostly white bird swoop down and seize its prey, before flying off to feed. 

At that moment, at the end of a full day's explorations, we may have felt a little washed out, but we certainly thanked our lucky tweed that we are Members of The Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers...


  1. This is Ragged Rambling 'Old School' style.

    A great post

  2. Yes Mr. Many Coats, I would concur - this is 'Old School' Ragged Rambling, culminating in a voluminous write-up

  3. Glad you enjoyed 3 of the churches (Rumburgh, St Margaret South Elmham and St. Cross South Elmham) of our rambling Benefice (11 in all, plus 1 redundant one!) Come back and explore the others sometime - there's a Roman mound, 2 round towers, a window given by the future Edward VII, carved wooden owls and other animals and symbols, leaning walls, a large statue of a woman in white, 16th century tomb panels, and some fine Royal Arms - not forgetting 3 pubs and a brewery! They are all open as well!