Churches of Suffolk
More photos here
This was my
first trip with
Cultural Tours, lead by
Imogen Corrigan, recommended by the friend of a friend on a Courtauld
summer school last year. I'd done a Covid-era tour around
in 2021, but only one place visited on that tour is
included on this one.
Travelling in my own country means that I can forget my passport, euros, and travel insurance but I have to remember that the charger in my pouch of leads and batteries has a euro-plug and that I have to pack my home charger. At 4.00 in the morning, when I wake up and realise this.
My comfortable start had been made even more comfortable by the cancellation, notified last week, of my original train, meaning that I needed to take the next train, the 11:00, from Liverpool Street. As this gets me to my hotel around the time the group is due to meet I got my Pret Posh Cheddar baguette, tortilla chips and mango juice before boarding.
All was going well - the cows were standing up, the carriage was quiet and Colchester approached. Then at Colchester we were held up because of a broken-down train at Manningtree, for 42 minutes. Which meant I comfortably missed my connecting train from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds. Then we got moving, but waited outside Manningtree for ages. By the time we got into Manningtree station we were 64 minutes late, the guard helpfully announced, 85 by the time we got to Ipswich, where a Bury train was waiting, but then we all got turfed off that one onto another one.
I got into Bury 90 minutes later than I shoulda, so I missed the welcome lecture, was able to check in at the Angel Hotel and then snuck up on the group in St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Having bumped into Geoff, the tour manager, I was equipped with my Wispa machine and so looked the part, The cathedral is not so mediaeval, being more Sir Giles Gilbert Scott inside, but undeniably handsome, as is the Abbey gate, which is ruined but very medieval. The Abbey is mostly rubble and ruin, but there's an impressive Norman gateway (see right). Some late time for tea and a snooze followed. Dinner at the hotel was fine if unspecial.
Breakfast was also fine, but not special. For me fresh juice, good coffee, muesli, a croissant, and Tiptree jam. Properly friendly staff. though, not pre-trained friendly.
With a 9.15 departure our coach, driven by Andre, took us first to St Mary the Virgin Church in Combs, which has one very ugly porch but some nice medieval glass jigsawed back into the windows after a local powder works explosion blew them all out. Then on to the sweet village of Hadleigh, where St Mary’s Church is sideways-on to very handsome orange old town hall with a very turreted red-brick tower nearby (see both right).
For my independent lunch in Hadleigh I patronised a place called Huffers and had an unusually good halloumi burger and chips with a vanilla shake.
To Stratford St Mary in the afternoon, which has some extravagant trees in the churchyard (see right) and some famous stonework lettering on the side facing the road, courtesy of a local family and their desire to get into heaven. These were the Mors, whose merchant mark with an EA monogram (for Edward and Alice) is also to be found carved into a buttress (see below).
on to East Bergholt, birthplace of John Constable, and the church of St
Mary the Virgin, where his father is buried in the churchyard, which
also contains a bell cage - a large wooden structure where some very large
bells arre kept and rung, but which process has proven somewhat lethal for
the bell ringers. Click below for info and videos.
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