Friday, 23 November 2012

Long Weekend in Norfolk

Trip to Norfolk

So, why Norfolk? Well for a few reasons. When we were here 10 years ago we never made it to that part of the country, so that was reason enough. Add in the fact that it was the Queen’s Jubilee weekend with a four day weekend made it all the better, and there was no way we were going to go into London, so it was a 603 mile journey instead (and if you look closely at the map, Mr Google reckons on about 15 hours bums on seats). So, off to the National Trust and English Heritage to find some good places to visit along the way. Mark had hoped to visit Bury Saint Edmunds, as this was one of the recommendations from his Mum from some time back. You can see from the map below that we didn’t make it there – another time maybe.

Audley End House

Saturday 2nd June

The National Trust property Audley End House was almost directly on the route from the M25 to The Vines B&B, so it was a natural choice for a place to visit. Audley End House is largely an early 17th-century country house in Essex, just south of Cambridge. It was pretty well a palace in all but name and is renowned as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England. The term ‘Jacobean’ pertains to the reign of James I (1603–1625) (not to be confused with the Jacobites who were people committed to James II and his heirs in the late 1600’s to mid 1700’s). (I learn good ☺). I also learned that the sculptures (wooden and stone) of men with boobs is traditional Jacobean, but I can’t remember what they’re called – and Google is no use to me. We also saw them at Clivedon. The timber work above is the original screen between the Great hall and the entrance.

Audley End was originally the site of a Benedictine monastery (Walden Abbey), granted to the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by Henry VIII (yes that fat man). It was converted to a domestic house for him, known as Audley Inn, and included parts of the dissolved medieval monastery. Life must have been tough . . . but it gets tougher. Audley Inn was demolished by his grandson, Thomas Howard (the first Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer), and a much grander mansion was built between 1605 and 1614, primarily for entertaining King James I (who only visited twice).

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, but I couldn’t resist a sneak of the stain glass in the private chapel. The chapel also has a fake gothic fluted ceiling – still looks pretty though (courtesy of the English Heritage website).

It is reputed that Thomas Howard told King James he had spent some £200,000 on creating this grand house, and it may be that the King had unwittingly contributed. In 1619, Thomas and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement and sent to the Tower of London (so much for boasting). However, a huge fine secured their release, but Howard died in disgrace at Audley End in 1626. The picture to the left shows Audley End in it’s splendour – the part that’s still standing today is in the far distance.

Howard’s descendants, had so much debt, that they sold the house to King Charles II for £50,000. It was eventually returned to the Howard family in 1701 in a neglected state. In order to turn Audley End into a manageable country house, part of the building, including the outer courtyard, was demolished and the interior was re-planned (it’s now about a third the size it was). The painting shows Audley End as it was in 1880.

The 7th Lord Braybrooke was the last of the Braybrookes to live in the house. On the 7th Lord’s death in 1941 the house was requisitioned as a training base for a special operations unit. Polish officers were trained for infiltration missions in Europe.

There are extensive formal gardens and parkland surrounding the house (remodelled by ‘Capability’ Brown no less). The grounds also include a formal parterre (flower beds and paths planted to form a geometric pattern) and a walled Organic Kitchen Garden, which looks as it would have done in late Victorian times, full of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers and still supplies fresh vegies to the house . . . Oh and they have this really weird hedge around it.

The historic stables in the grounds over the river have been recently restored, and National Trust pays for the upkeep of two horses (with trainer and groom). The horses are Duke and Jack – one of which was bought for £200 as an ex-show jumping horse (bound for the knackery).

Stables - nice house !!

National Trust also pays for re-enactors in period costume to work in the Victorian Service Wing, complete with kitchen, laundries and a dairy. There is also a famous Victorian House Keeper-Cook, whose recipes are for sale . . . Cal would never have passed up an opportunity ☺.

The rest of the photos are of around the grounds.


Castle Acre

Sunday 3rd June 

The Priory at Castle Acre (yes, that’s the name of this place) dates back to 1090 just after the Normal conquest. In fact the whole village, castle and priory are thought to have been founded in 1089 by William de Warenne the First Earl of Surrey. Warenne was with William the Conqueror at Hastings and received huge tracts of land (the Domesday book has him with lands over 13 Counties). So, Warenne build his castle, his priory, and a village nearby to attend to his needs.

Of course, there had to be some flowers around somewhere ☺.

Sometime between 1078 and 1082, William and his wife Gundred (nice name) tried to have a holiday in Rome (as you do), visiting monasteries along the way. In Burgundy they were unable to go any further due to a war between Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII, so they visited Cluny Abbey instead. 

They liked it so much that they made the Abbot an offer he couldn’t refuse, and soon the Warennes had founded Clunic priory on their own lands in England. Castle Acre Priory was one of the first the homes of Cluniac order of monks to England – the Cluniac’s (or should that be the “Clunes”?? ☺) love of decoration, and you can still see some of this reflected in the ruins. The new church was consecrated in about 1146, after the initial building in 1090.

When Henry VIII (that horrible fat man) dissolved the abbeys in 1537, he gave Castle Acre Priory to the Duke of Norfolk (complete with estates of course), and the monks were turfed out. The Pri-ory destroyed, although the duke liked the Prior’s apartments, so he kept these – and had to keep the west wall of the church for structural reasons. It didn’t matter that the monks had decorated the place with Henry’s Tudor rose – it still all had to go (except the Prior’s rooms of course).

Throughout the visitor’s centre are the words of Ælfric – Benedictine Abbot of Eynsham, written around 1000AD (long before the Minbari of Babylon 5 were a gleam in the eye of J. Michael Straczynski). 

”It is well known that in this world there are three orders, set in unity:
Those who work, those who pray and those who fight.
‘Those who work’ labour for our living.
‘Those who pray’ plead for our peace with God.
‘Those who fight’ battle to protect our towns and defend our land against an invading army.
Now the farmer works to provide our food, and the worldly warrior must fight against our enemies, and the servants of God must always pray for us and fight spiritually against invisible foes.”

The Priory was really something, but there wasn’t much to the castle (although apparently it has great earthworks) – so it was off to Castle at Rising Castle . . . that would be Castle Rising Castle.

Castle Rising Castle

Sunday 3rd June 

A lot of the internet references describe this castle as “One of the largest, best preserved and most lavishly decorated keeps in England, surrounded by 20 acres of mighty earthworks”. Bah. We were very disappointed with this castle – it probably started with the supercilious attitude of the staff at the gate-house/shop. When we showed our English Heritage cards (entitling us to free entry – the reason why we paid for membership) the body language of lady behind the desk seemed to say “oh, you’re one of those types that don’t pay and thus deny my Lord his dues in opening his castle to you to view” ☺ Not that we cared! The castle is actually owned and managed by Lord Howard of Rising, not by English Heritage, so the staff are employed by the Lord himself – might explain the attitude. We also think the good Lord is also overstating the castle to get more paying visitors.

On the way to the castle we saw a small bird shivering in the British summer weather by the path. It certainly wasn’t too happy . . . probably a chick not long out of the nest.

So, to the castle. Construction started in 1138 by the norman baron William d'Albini for his new wife, the widow of Henry I.

In its time Rising has served as a hunting lodge as well as a royal residence. In the 14th century it became the exile-place of Queen Isabella, widow (and alleged murderess) of Edward II, and mother of Edward III. The castle passed to the Howard family in 1544 and it remains in their hands today, the current owner being a descendant of William D'Albini. His standard flutters over the castle. Whilst the initial impressions weren’t great, the castle is an impressive structure – particularly if you note how old it is.

So, to the castle. Construction started in 1138 by the norman baron William d'Albini for his new wife, the widow of Henry I. In its time Rising has served as a hunting lodge as well as a royal residence. In the 14th century it became the exile-place of Queen Isabella, widow (and alleged murderess) of Edward II, and mother of Edward III. The castle passed to the Howard family in 1544 and it remains in their hands today, the current owner being a descendant of William D'Albini. His standard flutters over the castle. Whilst the initial impressions weren’t great, the castle is an impressive structure – particularly if you note how old it is.
In the late 16th century modifications were made to the castle – to facilitate access to the kitchen they decided to tunnel through the outer wall to make a passage. So, this picture shows just how thick the original walls must have been – the structure on either side of Cal being part of the original wall!! The passage leads past the great hall (see the picture on the left above), and then on to the kitchen (where else would Cal head?). There were also small private chambers nearby, one with a urinal, and one without – possibly some of the first ladies and gents toilets!!

Inside the inner bailey are the remains of an early Norman Church (just through the doorway to the right of Cal). Discovered in the early nineteenth century when the bailey was cleared of accumulated sand and soil, it is the earliest building within the site, pre-dating even the castle itself. Dating from around the late eleventh century it is thought to be the first parish church of Rising and was probably replaced by the current twelfth century church when the castle was founded. The face-pulling statue is part of the church decorations.

Blickling House

Sunday 3rd June 

The original house at Blickling dates back before the Tudor times to Sir Nicholas Dagworth (see right) (1378) who built the house and settled after having served under Edward III.

Hobart, the first Baronet, built the house on the site of a Tudor house, retaining as much of the house as he could . . . you see it was owned by the Boleyn’s, and reputed to be the birth place of Anne, that fat man’s first wife. Whilst the Boleyn’s only lived in the estate from 1499 to 1505, there is a statue and portrait of Anne Boleyn in Blickling Hall claiming "Anna Bolena hic nata 1507" (Anne Boleyn born here 1507). Supposedly, every year, on the anniversary of her execution, Anne Boleyn's headless ghost arrives at Blickling Hall in a carriage driven by an equally headless coachman.

Blickling House as seen today “has been at the heart of this north Norfolk community since the sixteenth century” - according to one of our sources of information . . . it certainly is an impressive house (more so than Audley End – and about the same vintage). Like Audley End, Blickling is also a Jacobean country estate with beautiful gardens and grounds, with the house dating back to 1619, when it was built by Sir Henry Hobart (pronounced Hubbard, so go figure that).

The cost of building the hall amounted to £8,000 in 1624, with an extra £960 apiece for each wing . . . a veritable bargain when you consider the supposed £200,000 spent by Thomas Howard on Audley End!! Money was saved by using the foundations of the earlier medieval house and retaining some of its flooring. Hobart was a lawyer, darn, for a moment there I thought I’d read that he was an accountant – that would have explained the frugal nature (or is that just good business sense)).

The house has passed down through the years through the Hobart Baronet’s, and thence to the 1st and 2nd Earls of Buckinghamshire – alas all the sons died in infancy, so the hall was passed the 2nd Earl’s daughter (Caroline, Lady of Suffield), who’s Mother (Caroline Connelly) was painted by Gainsborough, with the portrait in the Hall. It then passed to the Marquess of Lothian, and finally to the 11th Marquess, who last owner (before the National Trust).

So, why tell all this, well, because the 11th Marquess was the man who came up with the plan (in 1934) whereby, in place of death duties, whole houses and their contents could be left to the State, with their estates to provide an upkeep income. In 1937 this was enacted by Parliament, and in 1940, Blickling became the first Estate bequeathed to the National Trust. In the photo (back right), you can see the robes he wore to the coronation of George VI (along with the chairs that he and his wife sat on – “Coronation chairs”).

Some photos of the house, just to give a feel for the grandeur of the place.

The “print room”
Ceiling, symbolising royalty

One of the many tapestries

The long gallery

 The civilised bathroom scales
Jacobean turret

The estate covers 4,777 acres and includes 55 acres of formal garden, and includes a lovely par-terre. Love the Rhododendron in full bloom – but the flower of the month was actually wisteria.

Norfolk Coast and B&B

Other than the coast, and Bury St Edmunds, Norfolk also drew Mark here because of the many linkages to aircraft and air bases here during World War II. Just to wrap up the day, here are a few pics of the Norfolk coast.

There was also a unique WWII artefact. In this case a Dome Trainer at RAF Langham. The domes were highly sophisticated for their time and whilst not computer graphics, they did simulate the look and sound of both targets and anti-aircraft guns. Forty were originally built, though only about six survive.

There were also the classic English fishing trawlers in the harbours along the coast. The grey skeys in the photos were also part of the mood of the coast, which is why we purchased a water colour for Mark’s birthday – a very nice painting of the coast at Wells-next-the-Sea.

What we didn’t appreciate was that there were also quite a number of windmills scattered around the country side. Of course, a B&B in the UK would not be complete without a low ceiling and a door that you need to bend over almost double to get through.

Framlingham Castle

Monday 4th June 

When we looked on line we noticed that Framlingham Castle had a re-enactment on. What the heck, even without the kids it was a good reason to visit. We got there just on opening time, which was good, coz that meant we were able to park in the English Heritage car park right next door to the castle.

Framlingham Castle is a 12th century fortress with a long (and Royal) history. Probably most remarkable is the fact that the castle was once the refuge of Mary Tudor (daughter of Henry VIII) before she became Queen in 1553. The re-enactment was all about Mary Tudor (or Bloody Mary as she is sometimes known), and we’ll get to that soon.

A quick history of the castle (but not Mary Tudor):
Framlingham was administered through relatives of the crown for most of the 14th Century until Thomas Mowbray was made Duke of Norfolk by Richard II in 1397. 
The castle eventually passed to the Howard family through marriage to Ann Mowbray.
The Howards were also the owners Arundel Castle (which we hope to visit before coming home. To make the castle look more impressive, a number of fake chimneys were built to make the castle look grander than it was. Chimneys = heating = comfort = status.
In 1553, Framlingham castle was given by King Edward VI to his sister Mary Tudor. She stayed at Framlingham while waiting her succession to the crown, which hung in the balance. Her colours flew over the gateway and thousands of her supporters camped around the castle. The Earl of Arundel arrived to inform her she was Queen.
In Elizabeth's reign the castle was used as a prison for Priests who defied the Church of England, before being returned to the Howards in 1613. But the glory days were over and the castle was leased and finally sold to Robert Hitchen in 1635.
When he died, his will ordered the castle to be pulled down except for it's outer walls and a poorhouse was to be built inside. So what we have today is just the outer walls (or the cur-tain walls that were built to surround the inner castle) and the poor house (above that was built).
Eventually the castle passed into the care of the state in 1913 and was later given to English Heritage.

So, on to the re-enactment. The first thing we saw were the gallows and the executioner. Something the kids would really enjoy. Whilst I was taking still photos from the top of the wall I was told not to take video – so, I guess the rebel in me decide that if I’ve been accused of the crime, I might as well do the crime ☺, so some video was subsequently taken.


The next character was the local court jester – entertaining the kids. It must have been hard work.

We had a lovely chat with Mary Tudor and My Lord Norfolk. They were very much into the role-play acting, and it wasn’t hard to get into the swing of things. Mark made the (almost fatal) mistake of calling her “Bloody Mary” – not something you want to say to a monarch face-to-face. They gave us a lovely history lesson from the first person (as though they were living the times when Mary occupied the castle, and the reign of Elizabeth was yet to come). The resemblance to the actual Mary Tudor was quite good. Mark also had a crash lesson in who was who in the Tudor zoo.

Mary Tudor (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558) was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. Her opponents gave her the sobriquet of "Bloody Mary".
She was the only surviving child from the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547. When Edward became mortally ill in 1553, he attempted to remove Mary from the line of succession because of religious differences. On his death, their cousin Lady Jane Grey was at first proclaimed queen. Mary assembled a force in East Anglia and successfully deposed Jane, who was ultimately beheaded. In 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain, becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in 1556.
As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Mary is remembered for her restora-tion of Roman Catholicism after the short-lived Protestant reign of her half-brother. During her five-year reign, she had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian Persecutions. Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed after her death in 1558 by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I.

All very tiring, as the jester can attest to:

Orford Castle

Monday 4th June 

Orford Castle was just down the road, and it has an absolutely fantastic keep – so intact. We were able to explore from the basement, through the lower and upper halls to the roof where we posed in front of the seaward views of the Orford Ness. One of the reasons for building the castle was to assert the Royal influence over the area of Suffolk. The Earls of Norfolk and owned key castles at Framlingham, Bungay, Walton and Thetford, and were among the group of dissenting barons during the reign of King Stephen.

It’s also an interesting keep, in that it is circular on the inside, and polygonal on the outside. It was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II, and based on Byzantine architecture. The tower was based on proportions in the ratio of 1:√2 – which is also found in many English churches of the period. The best chambers were designed to catch the early morning sun, whilst the various parts of the keep were draught-proofed with doors and carefully designed windows – such luxury in war-torn England.

The history dates back before the 12th century. Within the castle we saw silver coins from the 1st century iron age – cool!!!! We also saw a knight hiding in a closet ☺.

Whilst the keep has survived the rest of the castle is now completey gone.

During the Second World War the castle was refortified with barbed wire. It was originally going to be used as an anti-aircraft battery, but was used instead as a radar emplacement. A concrete floor was added in the south-east tower to support the equipment.

Sutton Hoo

Monday 4th June 

Sutton Hoo is a group of Anglo-Saxon burial mounds overlooking the River Deben in south-east Suffolk, England. Most important of these burial mounds is the ship burial mound of an Anglo-Saxon king and his treasured possessions. It includes some fantastic Saxon finds, and is thought to be the burial site of King Rædwald (629-ish) along with his stunning helmet, which is in the British Museum (with a replica from the royal armories on display here). 

There have been four archaeological campaigns at Sutton Hoo, although the first, and major excavation was in the late 1930’s (1938-39) and was commissioned by Mrs Pretty, (owner of the Sutton Hoo Estate). Basil Brown began excavations, which became world famous, and unearthed the saxon ship burial site. When the national significance was recognized the site was descended on by national experts.

The ship-burial is regarded as one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England. The most significant arte-facts from the ship-burial, displayed in the British Museum, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre, and many pieces of silver plate from the Eastern Roman Empire. The artefacts (as well as a recreation of the burial ship) are part of the museum exhibits.

For once, we decided on a tour of the site, and learned (and saw) a great deal more than we would have by just walking around.

The soil at Sutton Hoo is quite acidic, which means that there are virtually no bones or organic material left (including timber), so all that remained of the ship was a series of rivets in discol-oured (and stratified) soil.

There were a variety of burials at the site, including horses, and also burials of people thought to have been executed. The soil also preserved some of the bodies in quite unique ways. One of the fascinating burials is that of the “sand bodies” – not buried carefully – more rolled into a grave. There were a total of 17 of these, and a plaster cast of one of them was on display on the tour of the burial mounds.

So, whilst the archaeologists are not certain of who was buried at the site, we are comfortable in claiming our earliest monarch burial site ☺.

1 comment:

  1. Hello
    So pleased that you enjoyed your visit to Framlingham Castle. I do remember you both.

    Its nice to be able to see what visitors thought afterwards. And the photos a lovely.

    If you like historical re-enactments and would like to come up to Suffolk again, then do visit Kentwell Hall ( We have a Tudor event there every summer (June/July) when the around 200 - 300 "Tudors" recreate and entire Tudor or Elizabethan estate. This summer it will 1559.

    All the best and I hope you have a lovely time in the UK.

    Queen Mary Tudor
    (aka Bess Chilver - elizabeth DOT chilver AT gmail DOT com)