East and Angular

To England’s bellow-shaped northern lump,a great Anglia hip of North and South Folk almost falling into Netherland and sea.

Norwich, proud capital of the region, dripping with arty doings and fine buildings. St Peter Mancroft, proud success story of the Norman makeover, jammed with proud civic mercantile goodies.

St Gregory’s church a heartbreaker, with its swaggering St George wall painting and quiet fading woodwork, converted into an arts centre by someone with a real feel for the random, fragile poetry of these places — more medieval churches should loosen up and go this way.

The St Andrew’s Street/Elm Hill/Suckling Hall area an almost-too-good-to-be -true medieval heartland such that London has lost/Tombland has been a desert since de Losinga cut it in two in the 1090s/at St Julian’s shrine supporters of the Canarys made yellow and green genuflections, twin tribes of Anglia and Anglo-Catholic intertwining.

Then south, to a deep land I’ve long been allured by on the map, miles from anywhere of any size, scattered villages a litany of saints. Elmham minster just teeth of jutting flint in a copse a mile from the nearest lane, amid a landscape tilled and husbanded and looked after with quiet attention since at least the C9: I kip there in a bivvy bag, trees with their roots in the Saxon dead, the silent walls and comfort, until it gets cold and damp and I repair to the car.

By 7am I’m at Thornham Parva, a second shut-eye among the subterrenean winding sheets of Suffolk farmers, dawn sun hitting my face as I slumber by a church of quiet poetry and awaken to the spectacular Retable, meideval work of art ripped from a Dominican friary and found in a stable-block.

Then west to Lavenham, in a country almost tastelessly perfect, like an overwrought late medieval/C17 designer cake, the town a dripping film-set of mercantile pride, the Guildhall more for warehousing and feasting than faith, in the church, perfectly placed and surely of the Wastell ilk upwardly mobile Springs and their extravagant parclose chantry setting the tone for half a millenium of smug ostentation; then Long Melford, the Clopton and Walsingham-aping Lady chapels places to weep among the dry brown wood, fading tempera and poetic articulations of incarnate ideas. These places have been pleased with themselves in slightly blingtastic way since at least 1400, and at shows; yet the Long Melford chantries strike moments of real poetry.

  1. May 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    If ever I get a chance sounds… like a beautiful itinerary… though via a quick google of the area map if I was going purely on place names alone I’d have to include Morning Thorpe, Dickleburgh and Rushhall, Great Moulton, Sneath Common and probably Wacton.

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