Leaving your mark

This might be a short post but it is from something I discovered this week that is extraordinary to the western mind. When we think of leaving our mark behind on something we have owned it is normally a bookplate in our books, or maybe a label on the back of a painting we once bought from an exhibition, but in China and Japan there is a history of stamping the front of a work with the owners mark. They are called ‘collector’s seals’.

This is special type of seal are used by collectors. This tradition started in Tang Dynasty. When collector gets a valuable piece of art work, for example, painting, calligraphy, or book, he would use his collector seal to stamp on the art work. However, you need to be careful with where you stamp the seal. The principle is not to destroy the original painting balance. However, this principle is very easy to be broken since every collector wants to leave a stamp on the art work.

Ma Hezhi – ‘Illustrations to the Odes of Chen’, 1131-1162

Ma Hezhi – ‘Illustrations to the Odes of Chen’, 1131-1162

Wang Xianzhi – Xinfu Dihuang Tang Tie ,Tang Dynasty

Graveyard Pots

Here is an interesting artical from Ceramics Monthly, April, 1967 about traditional flower pots for American graveyards.

We had often heard the older potters in our area refer to the graveyard pots and markers their ancestors made, but though we had searched many old cemeteries in North and South Carolina, we could not find any surviving examples of this unique American tradition. When a neighbour told us recently that there were several graveyard pots in the older section of the cemetery where her family is buried, we dropped all work and drove to the graveyard.

It was one that we had visited before, but the pots had eluded us so well as several generation of passers by because the old section of the cemetery, some distance from the new, was quite grown- up in weeds and shrubs.

There, adorning forgotten graves dating from the 1830s to 1900, were more than thirty fine examples of traditional graveyard pots. None of these had escaped the ravages of time, for they were cracked and chipped, and some were badly broken. But the presence of hundreds of shards was a mute testament to the number of pots that once were there.

The urns, vases, and flower pots which had survived, however, were whole enough to have preserved their simple form and beauty. This section of South Carolina is rich in potting legend, but few examples by the dozen or more potters who kept shop up until the early 1900s have survived.

The fields are covered with shards, but only a few churns and pitchers remain to tell of the work of such men as Brown, Fullbright, Clayton, Belcher. Atkins. Williams, Van Patton and Johnson, all of whom had potteries within a ten-mile radius. Their community was called “Jugtown” (not to be confused with the well- known Jugtown, North Carolina). There is no way to tell now which of these potters made the surviving graveyard pots, for it was never the custom for the potters to sign their work, but the pots do represent the skills of at least a half-dozen different potters.

Only one badly-damaged grave marker (illustrated) has survived, but old-timers in the area remember when they were many. It was reportedly the custom for potters’ own graves, and those of their families, to be distinguished by such markers. These graveyard pots are a testament to the ability and imagination of nineteenth century American potters. The same potters who took extra time to make the painstaking decoration on these graveyard pots were content to make perfectly plain vessels for everyday use. The pots were often the only adornment for graves marked with a fieldstone or crudely-lettered tombstone. Since it was the custom, until recent years, for rural churches and families to take constant interest in the appearance of their graveyards, it is probable that the vases were often filled with fresh flowers.

Bernard Gay

Bernard Gay, was born at Exmouth, Devon on 11 April 1921, son of Ernest Garfield Gay and his wife Marguerite née Allen, who married at Newton Abbot, Devon in 1916. He grew up with a ‘baby farmer’ called Miss Wellaway an early type of foster family because his parents were poor and they sent him away. Miss Wellaway was an abusive woman who kept the children on bread and Margarine.

Bernard Gay – Plant Pot, 1955

When I was 16 and I eventually went home, I went to London to find my mother; I then discovered I had two sisters which I had never known about. One was two years younger than myself and was quite nice, and one was two years older who wasn’t very nice actually, though I mean I hardly knew them. I stayed there for about a year and a half and then I left, I went away and never went back. There was nothing to hold me there, there was no…no family feeling really.

Bernard left school at the age of 14 and after various jobs, just before the Second World War joined the merchant navy and travelled the world being introduced to art by Muriel Hannah in New York.

It was not until 1947 that he returned to education, when he studied textile part-time at the Willesden School of Art 1947-1952 and changed course to fine-art under Maurice de Sausmarez (1915-1969) and Eric Taylor (1909-1999) and began drawing classes at St Martins School of Art and quickly established himself as a painter.

While at Willesden School of Art Gay got involved with the drawing club:

Stanley Spencer came to do a criticism, and I remember him looking at an absolutely pathetically awful little painting and he turned to me and said you know, ‘Oh I do wish I could do something like that’. It was just ghastly. And I remember saying to him, ‘By the way, how do you do those huge paintings of yours?’ And he told …he painted in the kitchen, and he said, ‘What I do, I have the roll of canvas and I square up my drawings and I start from the top left-hand corner and I work my way across the canvas, rolling it up as I go, and when I get to the other end I finish the painting’. And, it meant that he never ever saw, those huge Crucifixions and things, he never saw the paintings until they were stretched and framed. He just started from the top left-hand corner and worked his way across. And I remembered him saying to me, ‘Of course, the real difficulty is that I have an oil heater in the kitchen, and quite often the tops of my canvases get rather black with the smoke from the heater.’ But I thought it was lovely that he worked in this strange way, from left to right, right across his canvas… Stanley Spencer came. William Coldstream came, Minton came, Colquhoun and MacBryde came, they all came to give crits of our little sketch club events, and they happened every month. And it was marvellous, one met in that little art school on top of the technical college… Edward Bawden came I remember. So that was a wonderful thing really, that that little school could do all that.

Gay worked in setting up the Lisle Street Gallery, building shelving for them and went on to work for the Artists International Association. He moved to Hampstead and became involved with the Hampstead Artists Council. Then went on to give lectures for the Design Council.

During this time Gay was exhibiting London’s top galleries: Gimpel Fils, Rowland Browse & Delbanco, Leicester, Redfern, Wildenstein and Piccadilly Gallery.

It was at this time that the Hertfordshire Collection of Pictures for Schools bought his painting of an Ivy Still life from the Pictures for Schools exhibition: 23 January – 14 February 1954. I acquired it when the Council sold off their art collection. The fact that he was chosen to be in the Pictures for Schools scheme so early means a great deal, as many of his contemporaries at the time were incredibly famous. 

Bernard Gay – Ivy, 1954

In 1957 Jack Beddington was asked by The Studio Magazine to write a book on Young Artists of Promise. Beddington was the Art Director at Shell from 1928 until the late 40s and also was instrumental in setting up the Lyons Lithograph series of prints due to his working with new and young artists. In Young Artists of Promise Beddington selected Bernard Gay for one of the books colour plates (most of the works were in black and white) and when the Studio Magazine promoted their book they used one of Gay’s pictures The Gate in the Hedegrow, 1955 on the cover of the magazine (It is also the same edition that features a report on the Great Bardfield open-house exhibitions).

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A parallel career in arts education led him to become principal of the London College of Furniture and a member of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. An artistic all-rounder, author of ‘Botticelli’ (1961), co-founded the Camden Arts Centre, where he was chairman for 25 years and joined the council of the British School in Rome.

He set up the Committee for Higher Education in Art and Design and in the early 1970s, helped expand art and design programmes in many of the polytechnics, that later became universities. In 1974, Bernard was living at Church Cottage, Cookley, near Halesworth, Suffolk and married secondly at Islington in 1984, Catherine Ann Wilson (1952-1995) and in the late 1980s, they moved to Herefordshire where he became a board director at Hereford College of Arts. He died, after a short illness, on 15 March 2010 being survived by four children.

Clifford & Joan

Stanley Clifford Smith at home in Great Bardfield in the 50s

It is a sad fact that histories are penned by the winners, or the people left to write it. In the case of the Great Bardfield artists that history was left to Olive Cook. When the Fry Art Gallery was set up in 1986 she wrote the history of the local artists and for about 10 years that version of the truth was printed and reprinted. It has now thankfully been corrected now but with more time on my hands I went back to the original copies of their visitors guides and found she had erased Stanley Clifford-Smith totally. It might have been due to the Fry Art Gallery not owning any of his work at the time they opened. But history can be uncovered and re-penned (and as I mentioned, has been). This happened to some lengths when Stanley’s son, Silas Clifford-Smith wrote ‘Under moon-light’ a biography his of father and his mother Joan Glass.

Joan Glass – The Reflected Gardener

Stanley Clifford-Smith, known mostly as Clifford, was three years younger than Bawden and had four children by the time he moved to Great Bardfield. When young, Clifford was partly raised and schooled in Paris as his father was working there. As a child he had seen Debussy perform Clair de Lune and the composer came to their home for dinner. He had served in the Navy during the war as a navigation officer and lived in various properties in East Anglia, focusing on painting and designing textiles with his wife. Joan Clifford-Smith (née Glass) worked under her maiden name. She had studied at Chelsea Polytechnic under Graham Sutherland and one of the life models was Quentin Crisp. At Chelsea she started designing textiles and selling designs to carpet manufacturers. During the war she joined the Wrens and worked in the BBC Canteen.

Joan and Stanley married in Newmarket in 1946, and in 1952 they moved to Buck House, Great Bardfield and later the Old Bakery opposite Edward Bawden’s Brick House. Unlike the artists in St Ives that tended to influence each other, these Essex artists all had different styles and influences. John Aldridge being a traditional painter, Bawden more comic and print based, Rothenstein taking abstraction to it’s limits and becoming more like Britains Picasso, and then George Chapman who’s modernist welsh pictures looked rather alien in the East of England and also favoured etchings. Clifford was the most experimental painter of the village (Rothenstein being the most experimental printmaker) and his style was inspired by French painters and Expressionism, but like all the artists, translated it into his style.

Stanley Clifford-Smith – Clair de la lune, 1965

This small Essex village in the 1950s and 60s became a refuge for artists who had moved out of London when looking to start a family, but where still working in the city, mostly as art teachers and found it easy to commute back and forth. Having so many artists in a small location, the village applied for a money to have an art exhibition as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain arts grant. They got the money, had the exhibition and found it to be so successful that they wanted to do one again in 1954, and these became known as the Great Bardfield Open House exhibitions. Other Open house exhibitions were in 1954, 1955 and a touring exhibition was in 1957 and 1958.

Stanley Clifford-Smith – Harbour and Figures, 1956

It was Stanley Clifford-Smith who helped set up these open-house days in Great Bardfield and exhibited with the other artists of the village. They would turn their houses into art galleries and thousands of people came into their homes to view the work.

In the 1960s the artists with larger families all started to move away from Great Bardfield and Clifford Smith moved to London. By the 70s very few artists were left and John Aldridge was the only artist to stay until his death in 1983.

Stanley Clifford-Smith – Woman Bewitched by the Moon

The Livermore Sisters

The legacy of the Livermore sisters lives on in their rather beautiful gravestones in Barnston, Essex. They were painted by Kenneth Rowntree for the Recording Britain and being interested in typography I find them interesting. In 1941 Kenneth Rowntree had also moved to Great Bardfield, settling with his wife Diana (née Buckley) into the “a handsome draughty house” Town House. The sisters histories were rather sad however.

Kenneth Rowntree – The Livermore Tombs, Barnston, Essex, 1940

The Livermores were a large nineteenth century family who lived at the Hall in Barnston. Each grave has a poem but I am not sure were, my guess based on the tone is that they are poetic themes inspired by the Book of Common Prayer.

Martha 14 years old (d 1827) A slow decline
My life was like an April sky
Changing at each fleeting hour
A slow decline taught me to rely
And rest my hope in my Creators power

Emma 22 years old (d 1840) Thrown from her horse
Our life is but a single thread
Which soon is cut and we are dead
Then boast not reader of thy might
Alive and well at noon and dead at night

Jane 19 years old (d 1841) Heart attack
The rising morning ca’nt assure
That we shall end the day
For Death stands ready at the door
To take our lives away

Maria 16 years old (d 1841) Smallpox
Put not your trust in strength or youth
But trust in Heaven whose gifts they are
And now the solemn voice of truth
Hear, and to meet thine God prepare

Barnston Hall, Essex.

Brick House From Behind

This is a post about the back of Brick House, the home of Edward Bawden in Great Bardfield. It is an odd thing but many artists ended up painting the back of Bawden’s house more than the front. One would guess they were painted during parties or over weekends.

Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious were young artists, they met as students at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1922. Bawden and Ravilious moved into Essex in 1925, Cycling around the area they came across Brick House, Great Bardfield where they rented rooms from Mrs Kinnear, a retired ship-stewardess, for weekends away from London.

Ronald Maddox – Brick House, 1960

Brick House is an early 18th Century red brick house with two floors and windowed attics. The property had two staircases, so when the house was rented it was divided into two parts with a shared kitchen and scullery. It had been the home of a carriage maker, a girls school, and a coffin maker in it’s past. Mrs Kinnear rented rooms but lived her with two daughters and her dog.

When Edward Bawden married Charlotte Epton in 1932, Edward’s father bought them Brick House as a wedding gift and Charlotte’s father, who was a solicitor took care of the paperwork.

The first picture here, by Eric Ravilious is painted from the top of the house. At this time the roof was being repaired and retiled as it was in poor condition after purchase. Edward and Eric both climbed up the ladders to the roof to paint the view, you can see more of the guttering to the right of the picture below than you could from the view of Edward’s studio.

Eric Ravilious – Prospect from an Attic, 1932

The picture below by Bawden shows the roof being repaired by Elisha Parker and Eric Townsend and their ladder to the roof. Even though the house was sold, Mrs Kinnear (the old landlady) had left all her possessions in the building while she took up a Housekeeper post in the New Forest. Charlotte managed to arrange that the possessions would be stored in the Village Hall and with the help of Mrs Townsend (Eric’s mother, who was also the washer woman) she moved them out of the house. While the roof was repaired Charlotte Bawden cleaned and fumigated the rooms prior to them being decorated.

You can see Elisha and Eric on the roof below.

Edward Bawden – They dreamt not of a perishable home, who thus could build, 1932

The bizarre name for the painting was inspired by Mary Gwen Lloyd Thomas, one of Charlotte’s friends who edited poetry books, the quote is from Wordsworth:

They dreamt not of a perishable home who thus could build
Be mine, in hours of fear
Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuge here;
Or through the aisles of Westminster to roam;
Where bubbles burst, and folly’s dancing foam
Melts, if it cross the threshold

In the Garden is a little wooden trellised hut that the Raviliouses had given to the Bawden’s as a wedding present. You can see the foundations being installed in the picture above with wheelbarrows around and upturned earth (They dreamt not of a perishable home…).

It is my feeling that the picture below by Charles Mahoney was painted in 1932, likely just after the roof was completed. It is part of the collection of the Royal Academy and they date it as 1950s, likely because the missing trellis. Why do I think ’32? Well the same concrete foundations and wheelbarrows are where the trellis would later stand (the site of the buckets), and the waterbutt is to the left in Mahoney’s painting where as in the painting below it by Ravilious the waterbutt has been moved. Also the shed beside the trellis was lost in the war and replaced by one with a different roof axis. But mostly because it looks so much like the painting above.

Charles Mahoney – Barnyard (RA Say 1950’s I say 1932)

You can see the completed trellis in the picture by Ravilious below. Also the blue gates helped divide the part of the Bawden’s garden from Mrs Kinnear part of the house originally, it was also where she kept her dog. Later on as motorcars became popular the gates would divide the house from the driveway.

Eric Ravilious – The Garden Path, 1933

The brougham cart in the picture below was a purchase by Charlotte Bawden who bought it mostly because she thought the wheels were so valuable. Tom Ives (the farmer from Ives Farm at the end of their Garden) was selling it, and for some years it was kept under the trellis.

On the top of the trellis building is a wooden carved soldier made by Eric Townsend, the arms moved in the wind to scare birds on the farms.

Edward Bawden, My heart, untravel’d, fondly turns to thee (aka Derelict Cab), 1933

The picture below is of a Snowstorm by Bawden, he has scratched the paper to give the effect of snow blowing on the wind in all directions as it falls. The view is from the window in his Studio that looked almost right down the drain pipe. The carriage likely sold or scrapped by that point.

Edward Bawden, February 2pm, 1936

In 1937 the Country Life Cookbook had wood engravings inside, designed by Eric Ravilious and it featured a small wood engraving of the Brick House garden and the trellis again. By this time the Raviliouses had moved to Castle Hedingham, about six miles east of Great Bardfield.

Eric Ravilious – August, Wood-engraving for the Country Life Cookery Book, 1937

Below is a painting by another visitor to Brick House, Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades. He is mentioned in Anne Ullman’s edited Tirzah Garwood biography Long Live Great Bardfield. This painting has a guessed age of c1940s, I would again say it is likely mid-to-late 1930s as the toy soldier is still on top of the trellis. The other amazing and totally unrelated detail about this painting is it was bought by Pixie O’Shaughnessy-Lorant in 1987. What an amazing name!

Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades – Brick House, Great Bardfield, likely about 1935

During the Second World War Edward was touring the world painting as an official War Artist, Charlotte was in Cheltenham teaching and potting at Winchcombe, and their two children Richard and Joanna were at private schools in the Cotswolds. As the Brick House was empty it was used, and abused by the Home Guard and local officials as a headquarters. The house was the only building in Great Bardfield to suffer bomb damage. Many villages in the East of England were bombed, not as planned targets, but mostly from German bombers trying to dispel leftover bombs after failed bombing raids on airfields, factories or docks. The bombs being so heavy would use up more their the aircraft’s fuel and make it harder to fly back to their Nazi bases over the German Ocean.

After the War, John Aldridge painted the builders repairing Brick House. It was likely that the trellised building Eric and Tirzah gave to the Bawden’s was blown up at the same time. Eric, also an official war artist was also lost in the Second World War, in an aircraft off the coast of Iceland.

John Aldridge – Builders at Work, Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1946

John Aldridge had moved to Great Bardfield with Lucie Brown (nee Saunders) and the couple lived in sin until in 1940 John married her when he signed up to join the war effort.

The last painting of Brick House is this snow scene by Edward in 1955. Richard and Joanna are on a sledge and the roofs are covered with snow as is the ground making the red bricks bolder in colour.

Edward Bawden – Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1955

Trafalgar Square

Ceri Richards painted Trafalgar Square in 1951 for the Festival of Britain exhibition 60 Paintings In ‘51. Over the next few years he would continue making prints and paintings with a series of abstractions. 

He taught at various London art colleges and after 1951, when a large painting of Trafalgar Square (now in the Tate Gallery) was shown at the Festival of Britain, his reputation was international. 

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, London, 1950

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, 1951

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square II, 1951

After working on a series of these paintings and various drawings Richards issued the lithograph below in 1952. In another five years he would make another lithograph in 1957 and another in 1958. It was a theme that you would assume would be a year or two, but latest over a decade.  

 Ceri Richards – Sunlight in Trafalgar Square, 1952

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square (Movement of Pigeons), 1952

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, 1957

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, 1958

 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, 1962

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 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square (trial proof), 1962

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 Ceri Richards – Trafalgar Square, 1961–2

Ralph Alan Griffiths – The City of Swansea: Challenges and Change, 1991

The Pink House

This is a short little post but a fun on about a book that was published.

Olive Cook and Edwin Smith, to those who didn’t know, were husband and wife. Edwin is famous for his photography books and Olive penned a lot of the text. They had moved to The Coach House, Windmill Hill, Saffron Walden in 1966. Originally completed in 1865, it was part of the Vineyards Estate, a large victorian house built for William Murray Tuke, the tea merchant, and designed by William Beck, a local architect in Saffron Walden who specialised in Gothic Revival.

When Olive died the old coach house was being sorted for an auction to take place outside the property with various clusters of her possessions arranged into lots inside. The papers were sorted by friends, one of whom was Philippa Pearce, author of Tom’s Midnight Garden. She found a typed up manuscript and Dennis Hall of the Inky Parrot Press assumed it was a short story Olive Cook had been due to send him.

This manuscript was typeset and printed with illustrations commissioned by John Vernon Lord.

When copies were distributed at Olive Cook’s memorial service it was recognised by Mark Haworth-Booth as a story written by his daughter, Emily Haworth-Booth, who had sent it to Olive Cook for comment.

So though the book circulates still as Olive Cook, Emily Haworth-Booth’s story was published before the Inky Parrot Press, 2002 copy; in Varsity Cherwell May Anthologies: 2001: Short Stories, 2001.

‘Olive Cook’ – The Pink House, 2002, Inky Parrot Press

By The River

When I was younger and used film cameras I would take a photograph of a ditch, to my eye it was a channel of water and plants, but in reality when it came back it would look like a mess. The eye can be fooled by only seeing what it wants.

John Nash – The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble, c1922

This is why there is a joy of artists like John Nash, to paint what I thought I was seeing. Here are a series of paintings by Humphrey Spender. Spender was a talented painter and photographer, famous really for his work on Mass Observation. The paintings are abstract and in them I can see different lakes and rivers I know, but the genius and joy is that they can be anywhere.

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 Humphrey Spender – River Plant, 1958

 Humphrey Spender – Reedy Pool, Essex, 1969

 Humphrey Spender – River landscape, 1963

 Humphrey Spender – River landscape, 1960

 Humphrey Spender – Winter Field, 1959

10 Churches

To some people church visiting might be the last thing they want to do with their free time, but here I have made a list of some of the most interesting churches in East Anglia that you might want to see. I also listed them in a driverable order, heading northwards.


Church of the Holy Trinity, Hildersham, Cambridgeshire CB21 6BZ

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Holy Trinity, Hildersham’s earliest parts date from 1050. The church has many fascinating features; a 13th century font, 15th century memorial brasses, including a rather beautiful skeleton brass; the chancel is filled with Clayton and Bell victorian murals and stained glass windows and an alabaster reredos by Rattee & Kette.


Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta & St Mary’s, Swaffham Prior CB25 0LD

I chose Swaffham Prior because there are two churches and because of the beautiful stained glass windows. One is a war memorial depicting planes and signal stations. Both churches have round towers. 

Both churches were established by the early 13th century. Initially separate parishes, their benefices were united in 1667. In 1743 the nave and chancel of St Cyriac’s were restored, but by 1783 the church was in a dilapidated state, and services were being held in St Mary’s. By the 1790s the roof of St Cyriac’s was collapsing, and it was overgrown with ivy. However, in 1779 the tower of St Mary’s had been struck by lightning, and in 1802, when builders were working on the tower, part of it collapsed. It was then decided to demolish St Cyriac’s church, other than the tower, and rebuild it. Work began in 1806 to designs by Charles Humfrey of Cambridge and the church was re-consecrated in 1809. Towards the end of the century, work was carried out to restore St Mary’s. 

Both churches are run by the Churches Conservation Trust.


St Mary, Huntingfield, Suffolk IP19 0PR

Though rather hard to find and to get to down narrow lanes this church has one of the most joyful painted ceilings in the country.

Huntingfield Church is beautiful outside because of the porch but inside it benefits from a painted ceiling. It was painted by Mildred Holland, the wife of William Holland who was rector for 44 years from 1848 until his death in 1892. The church was closed for eight months from September 1859 to April 1860 while she painted the chancel roof. Tradesmen provided scaffolding and prepared the ceiling for painting but there is no record to show that she had any help with the work, and legend has it that she did much of it lying on her back. We may imagine Victorian ladies wearing tight laced corsets and many petticoats, and wonder how she managed the ladders, scaffolding and hard labour of painting. She had an adviser on her schemes, a Mr. E. L. Blackburne F.S.A., an authority on medieval decoration.


St Mary the Virgin, Burgh St Peter, Norfolk NR34 0DD

The church dates from around 1200 and the tower is late 18th century, apparently inspired by the Ziggurat temples of Mesopotamia which had been seen by William Boycott, the second of the five Boycott rectors at the church. William’s son Charles was the famous Charles Cunningham Boycott, a land agent in Ireland during the troubles and who gave his name to the English language. The tower is strange and almost alien, it looks more like a construction from a film than anything else. Made of red brick the base of the tower is lined with knapped flints. The rest of the church is like thatched making them a curious pair.


Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh IP19 9LP

Blythburgh church is famous for it’s angeles on the ceiling, similar to ones found in Willingham and March. 

A beautiful building with a tower people can climb to see a view of the church interior from above. There is a marshland walk with a view of the church many local artists paint.


Saint Andrew’s, Covehithe, NR34 7JJ

The first of two ruins I have picked out, Covehithe is on the Suffolk coast and thanks to the Cliff errorsian, closer each year.  A ruin with a church inside it is a beautiful location and to me feels more like those oil tanker boats one can see on the horizon in the sea from the cliff. 


St. Michael the Archangel, Booton, Norfolk NR10 4NZ

The first time I saw this church my instinct was to laugh, it was such a presence on the landscape it looked more like it was made for Lord of the Rings. A beautiful church with a unique design.

This amazingly decorative and extraordinary church was the creation of one man – eccentric clergyman Reverend Whitwell Elwin – a descendant of Pocahontas. A friend of Charles Darwin, Elwin not only raised the funds for the building, he also designed it – without the help of an architect – borrowing details from other churches throughout the country. Some of his models can be identified; the west doorway was inspired by Glastonbury Abbey, for example, but the slender twin towers which soar over the wide East Anglian landscape and the central pinnacle which looks almost like a minaret, seem to have sprung solely from his imagination. The result is a masterpiece.

Inside, he filled his fairytale creation with angels all modelled on the rector’s female friends! The wooden carved angels holding up the roof are the work of James Minns, a well-known master-carver whose carving of a bull’s head is still the emblem on Colman’s Mustard. The delicately coloured stained glass windows also show angels as a series of musicians with flowing hair and pretty faces. Edwin Lutyens, the distinguished architect who married the daughter of one of Elwin’s oldest friends, said the church was “very naughty but built in the right spirit”. You may love the church; you may be outraged by it, but you cannot remain unmoved by such an exuberant oddity.


St Lawrence’s, Castle Rising, Norfolk  PE31 6AG

One of the most Norman looking churches it feels out of time. Beautiful in decoration and style it has a beautiful font and the Castle still stands nearby.


St Peter’s, Wiggenhall  PE34 3HF

A ruin on the edge of the canal drain that stops the fens from flooding, St Peters is a wonderful location to cycle to from Kings Lynn.

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