March 9 – Geocaching adventure in West Suffolk and Essex with Charlie

Kersey, Lindsey, Groton, Boxford, Edwardstone, Sudbury, Great Conard, Long Melford, Acton, Great Waldingfield, Little Waldingfield

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Charlie Haylock suggested that we meet up and he would take us on a geocaching adventure around West Suffolk. We thought this would be a great idea and planned to meet at Kersey church at 10 am. We got away to an early start and called into Curry’s PC World on the way as Mikes laptop definitely needs replacing and we thought we would have another look in case they had anything suitable. As we drove passed Hadleigh we detoured off the main road and picked up the village sign cache which we had done the numbers for last time we were in Hadleigh on 22/1/18 but had not had time to find the cache. The cache was quickly found although many people could have potentially noticed us as there were lots of houses about.

When we arrived at Kersey church there was a bus parked across the driveway entrance so Charlie got him to move back a bit so that we could drive in. Charlie is native to Suffolk and was able to share his knowledge of the area. Kersey is a lovely church with wall paintings and a wonderful purple altar frontal in patchwork. It also had great kneelers and a list of the rectors dating from Robert Wayles in 1331. The cache was several metres out but we used our geocaching sense and soon found it. Here we learned a Suffolk word for molehills – hobbley dobbles.

St James Chapel in Lindsey is a lovely little church out in the country which is not used anymore but is an English Heritage site. It was built in about 1250 and is a designated Grade I listed building. The chapel is constructed of flint, brick and stone. It has a tie beam roof covered with thatch. 

St Bartholomew’s church in Groton was the first church in England to hold a Jazz and Kiffle rock concert. This parish was also where John Winthrop, the founder of the city of Boston, Massachusetts was born. The cache was easily found and so was the village sign cache. A lovely sign on a lovely day in a lovely village. Charlie’s mother’s aunt once owned the pub in this village.

The lovely church of St Mary’s in Boxford had some good wall paintings and an awesome modern stained glass window from 1993. Charlie’s wedding reception was held at the Fleece hotel in Boxford.

St Mary the Virgin, Edwardstone is a very special church where Charlie was christened and married, his parents were married and many of his family are buried here including his parents, grandparents and sister. As they stepped out of the church on the day in January 1971 that he was married they looked out over a completely white landscape. It would have looked like that last week too. Charlie went to pay his respects to his family while we looked inside the church. Archibald Brian Bird who was the minister for the church from 1946 and took part in all the special moments for Charlie’s family is also buried in the churchyard. This was my favourite church of the day with its reredos with outstanding with 3D figures in paint and gilt. There was also a painted ceiling and a string course. There was a plain font on a marble stand. The Brands of Edwardstone Hall once owned the land that the church was built on and had their own door to enter the church.The name Edwardstone means farmstead of a man called Edward and was listed in the Domesday Book as Eduardestuna.   Charlie found the cache by himself, his first cache find and we gave the place a favourite point. There are two Edwardstone Halls here plus the church and as we drove back through the gatehouse Mike stopped for a photo and I grabbed another cache.

Many historians believe that St Edmund the Martyr was crowned King of East Anglia at St Peter’s church in Sudbury on 25 December 855. It had two lovely dados on the rood screen with four saints on each. It had wonderful painted ceilings and a huge and awesome reredos. The wooden reredos in the chapel had a wonderful rendition of the Last Supper carved in wood. There was also a lovely pigeon lectern. There was an art exhibition done by stroke victims being displayed in the church and ladies were selling a variety of cakes and cups of tea. I had a lovely lemon cake and Mike and Charlie had toffee cake. Then we walked the short distance to the cache. It was right outside a bank but with an excellent hint, we managed to retrieve the cache without anyone seeing us. Another favourite point for another excellent church. Outside, the statue of Thomas Gainsborough, palette in hand, gazes down Market Hill towards his birthplace.

Next, we walked to St Gregory’s church, Sudbury which had a wonderful painted ceiling and some beautiful stained glass windows. It had 18 misericords and an amazing 15th-century font cover over the octagonal font. There are two dados with four saints on each although it seems that they were repainted in the early 2oth century. One of the original panels survives in the church. Although St Gregory’s was founded as early as the 8th century, none of this remains.The 12th-century church which had been a gift to the town from Nuneaton Priory had, in 1365, the chancel rebuilt by Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, and his brother John, to accommodate a college of canons, the misericords date from this period. Simon was beheaded in 1381 by poll tax rioters, his body is buried in Canterbury Cathedral, whilst his head returned to St Gregory’s where it remains today.  The Talbot dog can be seen both inside and outside the church as this dog, which is a cross between a greyhound and a whippet, is the symbol of Simon of Sudbury. There are also two large tombs and fourteen small stone stations of the cross. Morcar, one of the Earls of Northumberland who took part in the Battle of Fulford reputedly owned land around this area.

Sudbury is a major silk manufacturing centre with four firms producing a wide range of quality fabrics. Silk manufacture has been established there for 200 years whilst textile manufacturing has been established in the town since the 14th century. By 1844 there were four silk manufacturers and some 600 silk looms in Sudbury. Stephen Walters and Company began in Spitalfields in 1720 and moved to Sudbury in the mid 19th century. At their factory in Cornard Road, they produce a wide range of fashion fabrics and were commissioned to made silk for the wedding dresses of both the Princess Royal and Princess Diana.

On the way back to the car we picked up a church micro for the Sudbury URC church and then went on to Great Conard where we found the geocache at St Andrews church but the church was not open. The lid was off the cache here so rain is going to be a problem.

Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford is one of the great Suffolk wool churches and was built almost entirely in the 15th century at a time of growing prosperity among the local cloth merchants. It was completed in 1484. The only modern part is the tower, dating from 1903. Much of the stained glass is medieval, and the Rabbit (Hare) window above the north door symbolizes the Trinity. It is an Anglican Christian church in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich within the Church of England and has served the ancient and beautiful village of Long Melford, near Sudbury, for over five hundred years. The original tower of Holy Trinity was destroyed by lightning around 1710. A Georgian brick and plaster replacement was built around 1772, considered rather unappealing and not in keeping with the rest of the building. The present tower was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Construction of the new tower begun on 10th April 1899 and completed in 1903. The present tower stands 118 feet in height and is constructed of flint and flush work, consisting of dressed stone and flints from Brandon and nearby Acton. The four pinnacles commemorate Queen Victoria, Edward VII, Alexandra and the well respected and much loved once time Rector, the Revd. C J Martyn. The church is the size of a small cathedral and so impressive. It has five hatchments including one to Viscount Savage in 1635 which is said to be the rarest hatchment in Suffolk. It has the motto A Te Pro Te. There are 12 amazing stained glass windows down one side while the other side only had three making the church full of light. My favourite window featured St Edmund, St Martin and St George. There was a wonderful tomb for Sir William Cordell and also Hyde Parker tombs. In the Clopton Chantry Chapel, there was a lily crucifix window from around 1350. After driving down the oak tree drive to Kentwell Hall to see the mistletoe in the trees we drove down the road to Melford Hall, a National Trust property owned by the Hyde Parkers. We looked for the church micro but after a long look by all three of us, we sadly could not locate the cache.

Great Waldingfield, in the heart of Constable and Gainsborough country and was mentioned in the Domesday book when it was known as Walingafella Magna, but its origins go back even further with evidence of Bronze Age settlements. It was also featured in an episode of ‘Lovejoy’ in 1994. St Lawrence’s church, Great Waldingfield was closed as was the previous church of All Saints at Acton but at least we were able to find the geocache in Great Waldringfield. At St Lawrence’s in Little Waldingfield, there was some great tile work in the sanctity and the chancel and two nice stained glass windows. The octagonal font had had its 4 lions and 4 woodwoses removed. Charlie found the cache but the log was too soggy to sign. At Lindsey, we found the village sign and the church micro cache but St Peter’s church was closed. We did find a travel bug here though which we took so that it can continue on its travels around the world. This travel bug was only released in August 2017 in Basse-Normandie, France but has already travelled 41452 km as it took a quick trip to New Zealand to Rotorua and Mount Tongariro before returning to the UK.

Our penultimate church of the day was All Saint’s Church in Chelsworth in a pretty village off the main road. The present building is mainly 14th and 15th century but a charter granted in 926 to King Edgar mentions a church in Chelsworth, and a Domesday church is first recorded in 1086. There was some lovely wall painting above the chancel arch and some wonderful tile work. The stained glass windows are beautiful with vivid royal blue which I love. The rectors are listed from 1199 with Geoffrey de Sa being the first. There were too many numbers to collect for the multi so we left it for another visit. At St Peter’s church in Monks Eleigh, there was a lovely Queen Anne coat of Arms, a painted organ, and a variety of 19th-century stained glass windows.

A great tally for the day with 17 geocaches done with 14 found, 10 being church micros. A great day out enjoyed by all and lovely early Spring weather too.