Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic
We made a special trip to Bury St Edmunds to visit the cathedral and St Mary’s church. We parked in Ram Meadow car park and walked through the Abbey Gardens ruins to the cathedral. The park is on the site of the Benedictine Abbey. It was originally a botanic garden set out in the same style as the Royal Botanic Gardens in Brussels. The Abbey was a place of pilgrimage to the burial place of St Edmund the Martyr who was killed in 869 by the Danes. The Danes beat him, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him when he refused to renounce Christ. He is the patron saint of pandemics as well as of kings and until the Middle Ages was the patron saint of England until he was replaced by St George during Edward III’s reign. Most of the Abbey buildings are ruins but two large medieval gatehouses survive. Also, there are some houses built into the abbey wall which are still occupied. The ruins are owned by English Heritage and we walked around reading all the information plaques. There is a statue of St Edmund near the cathedral by Elizabeth Frink, 1976. St Edmundsbury cathedral was wonderful with its medieval hammer-beam roof adorned with 30 winged angels and painted ceiling in chancel and sanctity. It had lovely stained glass windows and a fantastic gilded font designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1870 with the cover created by F.E. Howard of Oxford. There is a lovely tapestry of the Martyrdom of St. Edmund by Sybil Andrews, 1975 and a gilded altar. By 1976, 1,000 cross stitch kneelers were provided by all the parishes in the diocese each with the name of a Suffolk town. The multi for this cathedral included finding many things around the church and taking down numbers. One was to find the kneeler for Wattisham. I saw Hacheston, Hasketon, Melton, Woodbridge and many others of places we have been to since arriving in Suffolk but do you think I could find Wattisham. I searched all the pews three times and just as we were giving up and were hoping that we could find the coordinates without the number, I found in a place I hadn’t looked before in one of the choir pews. Such a feeling of relief. How exciting!! The final was back in the direction of where we had parked the car so we picked it up later in the day. We gave the cache a favourite point for the visit to the cathedral, the abbey ruins, the gathering of the numbers and a good find. An all-around excellent geocache.
On leaving the cathedral it was a very short walk to St Mary‘s church. This in many ways was even more spectacular than the cathedral. This church was built in the 12 century on the site of a Norman church.The church is awarded three stars by Simon Jenkins in his 1999 book England’s Thousand Best Churches. Jenkins writes:
The interior has one of the largest and most exhilarating naves in the country. Arcades of ten majestic bays march towards the chancel, each rising on continuous mouldings with only the tiniest of capitals. The unusually wide hammerbeam roof is a marvellous survival. Eleven pairs of angels guard the space below, attended by lesser angels on the wallplates and by saints, martyrs, prophets and kings, 42 figures in all. On the frieze a medieval menagerie takes over, with dragons, unicorns, birds and fish. … The south chapel is littered with pleasant brasses. The north aisle by the tower has its memorials spectacularly displayed. They climb up the wall to the ceiling, a valhalla of Bury worthies.
The most significant thing historically was the tomb of Mary Tudor, Queen of France, 1495- 1533 and favourite sister of Henry VIII. After her three month marriage to Louis XII, more than 30 years her senior, she married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Her tomb is in the sanctity beside the altar but is very plain and seems a bit underwhelming for such an important figure. There were many more impressive tombs of Sir Robert Drury, 1536, John Baret, 1467, and Sir William Carew, 1501. The octagonal font with lions at the base, alternating with woodwoses holding swords was beautiful as was the Notyngham porch wagon wheel roof. There are many beautiful stained glass windows including the modern Birt Memorial Window by Pippa Blackall, 2008. There were also many wonderful pew ends which are a particular favourite of Michaels. We looked for the geocache outside the church. The clue was quite cryptic and we could not figure it out at all. Even when we got home we still couldn’t work it out and then the next morning an extra hint from the CO and the penny dropped but it will have to wait until next time we are in Bury St Edmunds. We walked through the town which has some rather lovely buildings and shops.
We had been invited to another of Charlie Haylock’s talks. This one was on the history of surnames and was in Felixstowe. As Felixstowe was on our way home we decided to go straight there. We arrived in daylight and parked near the pier. We walked around the newly opened pier and along the beach. There is a lovely modern stained glass window frontage in lovely beachy colours. We had fish and chip dinner at the Fish Dish just across the road. It is ranked among the UK’s best fish and chip shop and its fame is well deserved as definitely the best fish meal we have had since arriving in the UK.
After dinner, we still had some time so we drove to Walton to do a church micro there. We found a convenient park but there was a lady standing smoking and playing on her cell phone right at the spot we believed the cache to be, so we waited and took photos of the church and waited. Finally, after waiting for ages she moved away and we found the cache in a different place which we could have searched without her being able to see us. Never mind another CM for the list, our 567th. The church was not open as it was then dark but a very strange thing happened. If you have a look at the photos you will see two photos of the church taken just 8 seconds apart. It looks like we may have woken up some ghosts in the second photo. LOL
We drove back to Felixstowe and met some of the same people who had attended the previous talk of Charlies that we had been to in Kirton and some who have already been to our exhibition. Charlies talk was very entertaining talking about the Anglo-Saxon and Viking bynames and nicknames we had prior to the Norman Conquest. He explained how and why surnames evolved after 1066 AD and enlightened the audience on the four different types of surnames. Charlie had a list of all the surnames in the audience and had previously looked them up and found out their meaning which made the talk much more personal. He included ‘Town’ and ‘Lee’ for us. Another lovely day and evening where we learned more about Suffolk.