May 5 – Beowulf Festival, Woodbridge

A couple of Multi geocaches and a visit to two Woodbridge churches

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Clare Perkins, the Mayor of Woodbridge and others have been planning the Beowulf Festival for 18 months and today it begins with a market day in and around the newly opened ‘Longshed’. It was great to finally be able to see inside the ‘Longshed’ and it would have been a great building for the Medieval Mosaic exhibition. But it was not to be. In the courtyard was a half-scale replica of the Sutton Hoo longship while the plans to build a full-size replica will soon start in the ‘Longshed’.

The Tidemill was open today for a donation entry. Woodbridge was one of the first tide mills in the country with the earliest record being in 1170, and until recently was the last one working after operating for over 800 years. Before 1193 the Tidemill was owned by Butley Priory when it was taken over by Woodbridge Priory. Henry VIII confiscated it until Elizabeth I sold it to Thomas Seckford whose family owned it for over 100 years, followed by several private owners. In 1793 the present mill was built on the site of earlier ones until it finally closed in 1957. It was saved in 1968, restored and opened to the public in 1973. Recently, further protection and restoration work has brought it back into use as a fully working tide mill as well being a fascinating and remarkable living example of British industrial and cultural heritage. We found the Tide Mill fascinating and learned a lot about milling from one of the experts there. The exhibitions were really well laid out and the trust sells wholemeal and strong white flour which they mill, both there and in local shops.

After lunch of a pulled roast pork, stuffing and apple sauce bun we walked through the village working on two multis. We finished one multi but were unable to get to the final today so did not have any caches to log for the day. We visited St Mary’s church again and also St Johns.

St Mary’s church has amazing flint work on the outside as well as some wonderful statues over the door. Inside there are six hatchments and the three panels of the Millenium tapestry made by local embroiderers. There was a huge George III royal coat of arms and a lovely font cover. There were a lovely wooden reredos, three ledger stones and a painted organ. There is a huge wall monument to Jeffrey Pitman, High Sheriff of Suffolk, who died in 1627, his two wives Alice and Anne Alice and their children.

There was also a tomb for Thomas Seckford, 1515 – 1587 was an official at the court of Queen Elizabeth I.  One of the duties of this post was to accompany the monarch as she journeyed around her realm. In 1564, she sold him the manor of Woodbridge, including the site of Woodbridge Priory, and he became a benefactor to both the church and town. Elizabeth is known to have held court at the Seckford family seat, Seckford Hall. He founded seven almshouses in Woodbridge in 1586. He also paid for the old Woodbridge Abbey to be rebuilt. His wealth is still benefiting Woodbridge today. He died in 1587 aged 72, never having had children, and was buried in a chapel on the north side of St. Mary’s Church which is now an organ chamber. His coat of arms can be seen in the north window of the west wall of the church.

There are also many lovely stained glass windows including two by A.L. Moore. On each side of the church are 12 saints depicted on dado screens. Most of these are in very good condition and quite wonderful.

St John’s church was built in 1840 but everything inside was renovated in the early 21st-century. In the apse are seven stained glass windows made in the late 19th/early 20th-century by E.R. Suffling. The figures depicted are Samuel, Dorcas, St Peter, St John, St James, St Andrew and Naaham’s wife’s maid. We could not see two of them as they were covered by flags.