December 25 – Christmas Day via the internet – 28 C in New Zealand and 8 C in U.K

Wickham Market, Orford, Pettistree, Dallinghoo, Letheringham, Sudbourne and Orford

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We started Christmas Day early with a Skype session with our family in New Zealand who were having their evening meal of nibbles and dessert including a pavlova/cheesecake invention. It was great to be able to speak to them all on this special day and it felt like we were there.

We planned a day of geocaching which is something which we have always wanted to do on Christmas Day. We were at our first church by 10 am in Wickham Market. The church wasn’t open despite the Christmas service started in half an hour. It is one that we have to visit again. Next was the lovely little village of Pettistree with lovely thatched cottages. We couldn’t go into this church either as the Christmas service was on but we quickly found the church micro. The village also had a lovely village sign as do many of the English villages. In 1920 Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI) promoted the wider use of village signs and a nationwide competition offered a prize fund exceeding £2000. The village sign at Biddenden, Kent, featuring the two Biddenden Maids, was one of the successful Daily Mail competition entries. We have seen that one and got the cache. Many village signs were erected for special occasions such as the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the passing of the Millennium or local celebrations such as the centenary of the formation of local councils.

Next, we visited St Mary’s church at Dallinghoo. This may not be the best day to do church micro geocaching as all the churches have church services on however we soon found the cache. The outer arch of the church had square flower ornaments and crowns and above this were square floral bosses ending in stops of crowned lions.

At St Andrew and St Euchachius church in Hoo, the wonderful wooden decalogue contained the Ten Commandments, The Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. It also had an octagonal font and a small organ. The village signs around this part of Suffolk are fantastic. Down the road, we stopped for another geocache at a letterbox which stood alone out in the country in a brick surround, a very strange sight.

At St Mary’s church in Letheringham, there were lots of marks where there used to be monumental brasses. Apparently, William Dowsing used to take up the brasses, have the brass melted down for bullets but then return the money to the church. One surviving brass was of Sir Thomas Wingfield from around 1496. There was a wonderful photograph of the local home guard. You could really see where “Dad’s Army” came from. The village sign in Letheringham was quite different from the popular metal ones and we easily found the cache. Putting it back without being seen was more problematical as a guy was out taking his dog and children for a walk. As we were still close to home we drove back and ate our cheese and pickle sandwiches over a game of Rummikub and then headed off out again for more adventuring.

Geocaching after lunch didn’t go as well with the first three church micros not being found. At Least one had not been found since August so maybe it is missing. Two of the churches were open though. The first was St Mary’s in Parham. The church was lovely with a Charles II coat of arms, an impressive font, altar frontal and gilded reredos. It also had a wooden screen, hatchments, medieval glass, a medieval chest and poppyheads on the pews. An excellent church. The list of the vicars goes back to 1313 and there are stocks in the lychgate.

On our way to the next church micro, we passed St Andrew’s church at Little Glenham so we went inside to have a look. There were some great monuments here to Dudley and Catherine North and a side chapel to Ann, Nicholas and Barbara Herbert. There is also a lovely marble reredos behind the altar. There is a beautiful 18th-century painting of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed and the Lords Prayer.

At Tunstall, we looked for ages for the geocache and there were lots of possible places to hide the cache but we found nothing. Eventually, we gave up and went to visit the church but it was closed. We were very disappointed so we headed to St Botolph‘s near Iken, a place of pilgrimage. It is a lovely little, thatched roof church with a lovely wooden reredos of the “Last Supper” and a 15th-century octagonal font. St Botolph began building a mister here at Icanho in 654 and he was buried here in 680 before later being removed for safekeeping. We were not the only visitors to this special place of Christmas Day afternoon.

All Saints church in Sudbourne has a decent size box so we left one of the travel bugs which we have been carrying around for a few weeks now. It is time for it to continue its journey around the world. The church has a George III coat of arms, hatchments, wall monuments, poppyheads and an old font. One of the wall monuments is to Sir Michael Stanhope, one of Queen Elizabeth I  gentlemen of the Privy Chamber. The funerary hatchments are of the Devereux family and the Seymour-Conway family.

We got to Orford late in the afternoon and the castle was not open as it is only open at weekends during the winter.  St Bartholomew’s church is a big beautiful church with paintings of the “Stations of the Cross” and other huge paintings on the walls. The Peter Collins organ from 1977 is amazing and the 14th-century font has four lions and four wildmen on the base. Angel’s heads support the bowl. The tapestry kneelers in the church are particularly beautiful featuring local buildings and ruins. There is a wall monument to Rev. Francis Mason, 1621 who served as chaplain to King James I. A William III royal coat of arms is mounted on the 1712 chancel screen. There are lots of monumental brasses which are still intact although most of their inscriptions were destroyed by iconoclast William Dowsing in 1643. The church has the 12th-century ruins of the church still in place beside the current church.

We drove back to Hacheston and caught an amazing sunset as we went through Sudbourne. A fabulous end to a wonderful Christmas Day 2017.