The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The two Road bridges of Pentlow

There has long been a road bridge at Cavendish. The only problem has been in working out where. In fact, the main coaching route south has varied a great deal over the years between two river crossings. The first was at Paddock Mill, and the second at Pentlow Hall. 

The siting of river crossings is important. The Stour between Haverhill and Long Melford represents the Essex-Suffolk border, and the edge of East Anglia. It can generally be waded in summer, but can be very different in a rainy spell, especially in the winter, and there are records of deaths when attempting to travel via the ford between Pentlow Mill and Pentlow Hall. 

The first depiction of the river bridge at Pentlow is on Spede’s map of 1575. There are three crossings shown: at Clare, Pentlow and Sudbury. The Pentlow crossing seems to be of some importance, ranked as it was alongside the bridges of Clare and Sudbury. At the time that this map was made, Cavendish was already important as a coaching stop. There were coaching inns and a prominent pond on the edge of the road for horses, and for moistening the wheels of the coaches and carts. The Cambridge route was important, but the route south to Castle Hedingham was favoured. 

These bridges are repeated in other later maps, but not in Van Den Deere’s map of 1603 

... r William Morgan’s “Essex Actually Surveyed” of 1678.

None of the maps at this stage tell us anything about the roads used. The first accurate road map I know of is that of 1724. 

This shows the itinerary of the route south to Castle Hedingham and Halsted, and thence by the old roman road to Braintree and London. The alternative route was via Clare. The itinerary was probably copied onto the map from a printed itinerary for it is careful in marking the road junctions. You can identify these road junctions on the modern map and they are surprisingly accurate. Some parts of this route are now very narrow lanes. The bridge crossings correspond to Spede’s map, 150 years previous.

The road via Paddock Mill seems, at this time, to be the only one, though the bridge at Pentlow Hall is marked. The halls, such as Bower Hall,  that are marked on the map are there not just because they are splendid, but because they are important guides for the traveller to make sure he is still on the right road. 

J Carey’s 1794 road map shows clearly that there was no route over the Pentlow Bridge and the main bridge was at Paddock Mill.

We can see this also on the first detailed map of the area done by Chapman and Andre in 1777…
This confirms the accuracy of the sketch map done of Cavendish in 1793, which gives detail of the two bridges. The main one at Paddock Mill … 

... where it shows clearly that the heavy carts had to run through the river for several yards before emerging on the other bank. At this time, the bridge is definitely narrowed but it is in a different place to the modern footbridge. 

The other bridge at Pentlow is clearly shown on the map too.

A 1794 map shows that the Paddock Mill bridge was the only through route in use at the time. It would seem that the bridge to Pentlow wasn’t usable at this time.

Curiously, The first Ordnance Survey map of 1790 shows no bridge at what it wrongly calls ‘Puddock mill’.  


Hodgkisson’s  map, done just ten years earlier, shows the bridge, though. 


A map of 1794 shows only the Paddock Mill bridge. 


Carey’s 1840 map shows both routes in use, with the Paddock Mill Bridge clearly dominant.

This is confirmed by Pigot’s 1840 map. 

What does all this tell us? Firstly, you should never trust a map. Even contemporary maps can tell a contradictory story. However, we can conclude that the Paddock Mill river crossing was once an important crossing way that rivalled the great iron bridge at Clare and Ballingdon Bridge. Pentlow Bridge, on the other hand, didn’t feature in many people's mind as a good place to cross the river until the present great brick bridge was built in 1880. It is hard nowadays to visit Paddock Mill (now called Cavendish mill since the days when it was a restaurant) and in its peaceful quiet surroundings, to imaging the times when coaches dared to use the old wooden bridge to get to Essex.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We've actually been very busy!

I was talking to someone about this site the other day and they happened to say that there was not much going on with it recently. I was a bit puzzled. I'd just been pestering our Internet service provider for more disk space as we'd put on so much new content that it had blown our allowance.  We had just finished putting up the large collection of photographs of Borley Rectory we'd been given, including photos of the model that was built for a television program.
We'd been catching up with a whole lot of photographic tasks after the mammoth project of  putting the Sudbury Photographs on the site, and the epic task of preparing the even larger collection of  350 photographs of old Bures. We'd also added to the Cavendish photos after having got hold of some really good photographs of Cavendish station. Also done recently was the addition of a whole collection of maps of Essex, Suffolk and the local area, after a donation of several old maps by a retired farmer.
I suspect that we now have one of the largest photographic collections of postcards of local views on the site that can be found in East Anglia.
There is plenty more work to do.
After Tom Hastie's death, we are still looking through his archive, kindly donated by the Hastie family. There are a lot of photographs to restore and scan.
Over time, we will be converting our entire collection of photographs to the new format. It is viewable on any device and uses the latest HTML5/CSS to fit itself to the page. Sadly it needs a good internet collection, but I know you have that, don't you?
So anyone else who thinks we've not done much recently can check those links first! In the meantime, we still have a lot of large glass plates with views of Sudbury that haven't been seen for well over a half century. We have done a few, very laboriously, using a scanner, but long for a better way. Any ideas?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Questions I Get Asked about Harry Price and Borley Rectory

These questions have all been asked of me over the years by journalists researching Harry Price and the Borley Rectory story. I have been interested in this story for over fifty years and have a large collection of photographs, interviews,  books and documents collected over time about the case. I am a local historian for Borley.
For the details of all the answers I give to these questions, see my series of articles 'The Bones of Borley


'How would you sum up Harry Price? Three words to describe him?'

An untrustworthy cynical journalist.

'The 1920s seemed to be a great age for mediumship? Why do you think that was?'

There was huge public interest in séances and mediums, The shock of the scale of the slaughter of the first War, the awful personal losses suffered, the dwindling faith in the traditional teachings of the church; The rise in interest in mysticism. Death was in the zeitgeist. Until Harry Price’s pioneering work, few people were aware of how easy it was to fake evidence of the afterlife.

'How did he become the most famous psychic researcher in Britain?'

He wasn’t a psychic researcher in the modern sense, but he made his name as an investigative journalist who specialised in debunking the worst excesses of mediums. He professed to be a scientist but had no training and none of the scientific mindset. This was a shame as the scientific discipline is there to protect the scientist as well as the public. He was, however, an expert photographer and conjurer: these skills were turned to great use in investigating mediums.

'What personal qualities did he bring to psychic research?'

He had terrific energy, and one of the best writing styles ever to have been used to document psychic phenomena. He was a great showman. His physical presence oozed charisma, dignity and integrity. He was not a man one would wish to cross, and retained few lasting friends.


'What do you think made Borley Rectory the most haunted house in England?'

It was inspired journalism, together with Harry Price's own conjuring skills,  brought to bear on a coincidental combination of unconnected events. Once the house got its reputation, everything that happened was attributed to ghosts.

'How did the Borley story come to the attention of the Daily Mirror in 1929?'

Rev Guy Eric Smith, the rector, asked the Daily Mirror for the address of the Society for Psychical Research, so that they could investigate the stories he’d heard from the sisters of the previous incumbent.

'How did Harry Price get involved in the 1929 Daily Mirror investigation?'

The News Editor of the paper called him in. Almost certainly he was employed by the Daily Mirror to ginger-up the story. After he was caught out faking some of the events, he subsequently lost interest in the case, except to refer to it flippantly, or to accuse the maid of faking the phenomena.

'What made Harry Price return to Borley Rectory when the Foysters were in residence?'

He was persuaded to visit once again by Ethel Bull, the sister of the previous incumbent, who visited him in London. She showed him Lionel Foyster’s ‘memorandum’ of events. Ethel wanted to hold a seance to cast doubt on her late brother's will that left nothing to her.

'Can you talk about Harry Price’s assessment at that time that Marianne Foyster was responsible for much of the phenomena?'

Price informed Lionel and Marianne that Marianne was responsible for the phenomena. He was not the first to do this, as three other investigations had already reached the same conclusion. Price and Goldney reached their firm conclusion after a single evening and did not budge from it subsequently

'What was Marianne Foyster’s attitude to Harry Price and the subsequent haunted status of Borley Rectory?'

She loathed and distrusted Harry Price and resented Harry Price’s accusation that she was entirely responsible for the haunting. She accused Harry Price of stealing Lionel Foyster’s manuscript to the account of his haunting.

'What do you think made Harry Price believe that Borley Rectory was worth investigating in 1937?'

He was lent the draft of Lionel Foyster’s writings that gave a full account of what the Foysters had experienced. He recognised it as literary gold dust. Ethel Bull asked the Church commissioners to offer the Rectory to him for sale, but he agreed to rent it instead.

'Can you describe how Harry Price set about his own 1937 investigation?'

He hardly ever turned up at all. The investigations were done by others; mainly Sidney Glanville and Kerr-Pearce., and a whole host of untrained but enthusiastic volunteers. Curiously, other more experienced psychic researchers volunteered to investigate but were turned down by Price.

'What do make of subsequent allegations that Harry Price created rather than discovered Borley Rectory?'

Initially, Harry Price was amused by the Borley Rectory affair but had no real interest in it because he’d seen it for what it was, and had even faked incidents himself to oblige the Daily Mirror. Harry Price was subsequently  moulded and changed by the events at Borley Rectory, and particularly the events of the Foyster Incumbency. Towards the end he moved from his stance of complete cynicism to the suspicion that there might be something in it.

'What do you make of the accusations of fraud against Harry Price by people like Charles Sutton?'

He was not the only one to suspect Harry Price of chicanery. One has to include Mrs Smith, the rector’s wife, Mary Pearson the maid, Mr Tatum, the maid’s boyfriend, Douglas Home, the psychic investigator, and Marianne Foyster.
Charles Sutton’s testimony was examined over many years, and is completely convincing. He never retracted what he’d originally said He was a friend of Price and was one of the journalists that specialised in reporting Price’s antics in the press. He knew him well!
Mr Jackson, who was the man who actually dug out the bones that were subsequently attributed to the Nun, was convinced that Harry Price had switched Pigs bones for human bones.
Harry Price’s technique was to create phenomena himself, and then record other people’s reactions to the phenomena in a straightforward way, ‘forgetting’ to add that he’d done it in the first place. He never ever told an direct untruth in his books.

'How was the report of Hall, Goldney and Dingwall received in the SPR?'

This book was a huge effort. It was comprehensive and left Price's reputation in great doubt. Those who wanted desperately to believe that Borley Rectory was, at last, proof of the persistence of the spirit after death were obviously horrified and angry. The committee of the SPR, and Sutton in particular, had always been alarmed by Harry Price’s antics from the moment the story first broke in 1929, and were utterly convinced in Price’s manipulation of the truth. Many ordinary members were greatly angered by the attack on Harry Price. A whole system of faith had built up around the assumption that the books were gospel truth. It split the society.

'Why do you think so many people have tried to tarnish the work of Harry Price’s critics, particularly the work of Trevor Hall?'

Because the criticisms were unassailable, they did the next best thing and took the battle ‘ad hominem’. Trevor Hall was a determined and pugnacious Yorkshire man and didn’t bow to that sort of pressure, but the attacks were unpleasant and untrue. There are, even today, some who accuse Trevor of stealing a book out of Harry Prices’ collection (he didn’t)  and argue that, in consequence, the entire report by report of Hall, Goldney and Dingwall should be ignored as untrustworthy. Trevor and I became friends, and I was proud to have known him. 

'What do you think of the continuing perception of Borley as a haunted place?'

It is the victory of wishful thinking over the scientific method and analytical thought. Anyone who argues against this perception of Borley as a haunted place is made to feel one is unkindly attacking a system of beliefs. The closer you look at the evidence in a dispassionate and scientific way, the more flimsy  it becomes.

'How has the reputation for hauntings affected Borley?'

The residents would like their village back please. There never was any haunting there, and none of the residents who lived nearby in the parish in the past century have witnessed anything odd or bizarre beyond the host of  tourists 
Borley has suffered much, especially during Halloween each year, and benefited nothing.
Graves dug up, headstones smashed, endless break-ins to the church; tourists wandering about the churchyard at all hours. People forget that it is a sacred place rather than a ghost-hunters theme park.


'How would you sum up Harry Price as a psychic researcher?'

He was a great journalist, a tireless worker, a charismatic man, but not a scientist. Once he felt he was certain of the truth he felt he was justified in gingering-up the evidence. Even famous scientists have fallen from grace for the same crime. The nearest parallel I can think of is Sir Cyril Burt, the educational Psychologist, trying to prove the inheritance of personality and ability.

For a while, he achieved greatness in exposing the tricks of the spiritualists and mediums. Sadly, something awful happened to Harry Price in late middle age that led him to cut corners. It got worse as time went on so that even his supporters (e.g. Edwin Whitehouse) noted that he had lost his critical faculties. It was as if some intuition of his impending death caused him to want to believe in the permanence of the spirit and his antics in faking phenomena and evidence seemed to be self-deluding as much as financial gain. He mistook firm belief for knowledge of the truth

'What has been his lasting effect on the world of psychic research?'

Although he did great service in debunking the fraudulent mediums, his later work in attempting to contact Mars, turn a goat into a young man, and in investigating Gef the talking mongoose were all examples of his ludicrous attention-seeking behaviour, and the whole field of psychic research was tainted permanently by association with it. 

The Harry Price Library is an enduring legacy. One hopes that it will be his chief memorial. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Origin of the Round Tower of Pentlow Church

Claude Morley, who published an interesting account of East Anglian Round Towers in the Journal of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Volume XVIII Part 2 (1923) added a footnote that illustrates the fact that the locals in the 1860s had a sense of humour. He quotes an account from East Anglian Notes and Queries 1868, p. 310. When asked about the origin of Pentlow's round tower by an antiquarian, this 'local' "explained to us that, before the flood, it had been used as a well ; and, when the inhabitants of the new generation who resided on that spot were looking for a place to build a church, .they selected this site because the old well would do for a steeple ; and therefore they built the church to it " The joke was repeated deadpan in the resulting article.

The round towers of East Anglia and of Ireland were probably originally bell towers, and mostly date back to Saxon times. There is evidence that some were enlarged in stages from an elaborate west porch. Bells were used for passing lay messages as well as summoning the faithful and punctuating the Liturgy. The original bells were much smaller than the current enormous castings seen in churches. Pentlow Church Tower is typical of the East Anglian type, but built in one stage. It dates from the restoration work of the 14th century. It is very archaic for its date and so may represent a rebuild of an original. This, however cannot be in the same location because the present tower covers and conceals a very splendid early-Norman West Door. When built, the bell floor was reached by a doorway, placed high up and accessed from the nave.  One can only guess at the form of the ladder that would be required to access the bell-floor, but there is evidence that ladders were there to access these doors, and that these were even used  in the more dramatic ceremonies to represent the ascent to heaven.

Bell towers were generally sited near to the hall of the local 'Lord' (Thegn) so that they could be easily manned, and defended,  when necessary to ring the bells. (The Celts used a yodeling call to transmit messages but we just don't know if this was ever used in post-roman Britain). They were certainly important for messages.  Among the laws passed by King Aethelstan in the year 937 was one which necessitated the building of a bell-tower on the estate of a thegn. At times of unrest, they would have provided very useful civil warnings, much like the sirens of WW2. As a defense, a tower is, by itself, pretty useless. There are accounts where the Irish tried to use them as a refuge against the Viking invasions, and the Vikings, it is recorded,  set fire to them (they had wooden doors and stairways) and being uncannily like industrial chimneys, the burned very well.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Roman Finds at Rodbridge, near Long Melford. in 1951

(from the  proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Volume XXVI, part 1 1952)
Following notice that animal bones had been found in a West Suffolk County Council disused gravel pit at Rodbridge, near Long Melford (Nat. Grid. 00/856435), Miss E. M. Backhouse, of Sudbury, in August 1951 recovered from the same spot shards of Roman pottery.

On 29 September a member of this Society, who is interested in field work, undertook a planned investigation and unearthed, between that date and 21 October, the following items:—a Roman bronze ligula or spatula, about four inches long; a steelyard hook; a nail; two shards of Samian ware; approx. 50 shards of Castor ware; approx. 700 shards, some decorated but the majority small and broken, of Roman grey ware, including rims and bases; approx. 25 shards of Anglo-Saxon coarse ware; samples of charcoal and discoloured flints.

The gravel pits at Rodbridge (there are others on the right-hand side of the Borley road) supplied material for Acton Aerodrome, near Sudbury, in World War II. As far as can be ascertained, nothing of archaeological interest was ever reported, yet evidence of what are believed to be hut floors or refuse pits must have
been noticed when the deep incisions were made in the ground. The site of the pit was originally arable land; the river Stour flows about 200 yards from the spot. The finds are at present in
my possession.

G. R. Elliott.

Since this note was written, the gravel pit has been bulldozed by the West Suffolk County Council, but it is hoped that an arrangement will be made whereby any future excavations here will be carried out under the auspices of the Institute, subject to the agreement of the tenant and to certain conditions regarding the
ownership and disposal of any finds. This is, of course, assuming that the bull-dozer has not done irreparable damage to the site.

Iron Age Pottery Vessel found at the Stour at Cavendish in 1952.

(from the proceedings of the Suffolk Institute Archaeology 1952)
An angler of 34 years experience, Mr. William Shaw, of 4 Broadway, Glemsford, Suffolk, while
fishing for roach in the River Stour (Nat. Grid. 795E454N) in front of Cavendish Hall, the home of the owner of  the land, Mrs. A. Brocklcbank,  landed with a collection of rubbish, what was identified on January 19th, 1953, by Mr. M. R. Hull, curator of the Castle Museum, Colchester, as either a native Iron Age or ancient British pottery vessel (circa b.c. 50—a.d. 50) of the Cunobulum dynasty.

The perfectly preserved vessel, which is about 5 inches in diameter and approx. 4J inches high, is slate grey in colour and there are two parallel incisions, extending round the pot, between the lip and belly. Mrs. Brocklebank, who has custody of the relic, was advised by the museum not to clean the chalk deposit off it. 

Mr. Shaw told me that the vessel had been lying in his shed from August, 1952, to January, 1953, when he took the pot to Mrs.Brocklcbank, who realised at once that it was of considerable antiquity. The river was ' quite shallow' at the time of the discovery- ; the river bottom shows traces of chalk, which probably
accounts for the chalk encrusted pot.

The discovery of this ancient vessel is of added interest: as far as can be ascertained, it is the only recorded find in the village apart from the Late Bronze Age encrusted urn, found in the spring of 1843, in the vicinity of Mr. Shaw's ' catch '. This urn, which contained the burial of a cremated child {skull, bone fragments,
and teeth sockets), was found inverted over the ashes'. It was presented in 1851, by the then Rector of Cavendish (The Rev.Thomas Castley), to the old Sudbury Museum but the whereabouts of the urn to-day is not known. Apparently a special frame was made for it and other precautions taken to preserve the relic.

W. W. Hodson, writing in a local guide book published in 1870, said that the Museum, which was then housed in a room at the Lecture Hall, North Street,' of late years has been much neglected'. It seems likely that the urn may have been mislaid during that period. It was described at the 1852 Annual Meeting of the old Bury and West Suffolk Archaeological Institute, by Mr. Castley, who states that the urn was found ' half way between the pool in the middle of Parson's Piece and the hedge on the South, not many
rods from the North bank of the River Stour' (Prot, Suff. Inst. Arch., vol. I, p. 313).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thomas Baskerville's Tour through East Anglia in 1662

The following is a description of an East Anglian journey by Thomas Baskerville. in 1662, mainly through the county of Essex. Starting from London, he proceeds via Chelmsford and Colchester to Sudbury, and passing through the south-west corner of Suffolk he arrives at Cambridge.

"The road from London to Colchester leads through Stepney, the greatest parish in England for multitude of people. Radcliff Highway, Wapping, and most of the houses below the Tower did in 1661 belong unto it. ’Tis something more than a mile from London unto it. Next to this, a mile and half further on the road is Bow and Stratford, both big enough to keep markets were it not within seven miles of London. A navigable river from Ware in Hertfordshire (the Lea) here, streaming in several branches, separates these towns as I suppose, and is the western bounds of Essex, but at Blackwall uniting again, there commixing with the Thame. Having cleared yourself of those towns, in your march on the left-hand you shall discover Sir William Hicks, his house in a flourishing grove of trees (Ruckholt). and then IIford, 3 miles distant from Stratford, which at spring tides is visited by the water from Thames. - Romford, a great market town for corn and cattle two days in a week, that for cattle one day. and corn another, to which the butchers and mealmen of London do resort. It hath one church handsomely beautified within.Ingatestone, a sweet town on rising ground, hath a handsome church, where the family of the Peters have an aisle for the burial of their dead, and in it some fair momiments. The Lady Petre now living is a widow, having a good report among her neighbours for charitable works. Adjoining to the churchyard they have a fair bowling-green, frequented by tho gentry hereabouts. In the next five miles' march you shall pass through Margaretts End (Margaretting) to Wilford (Widford), where upon the road I found growing camomile, organy, and orpines. Chansford (Chelmsford), the shire town of Essex, is about the bigness of Reading, watered with a fine river and adorned with a large church in which do lie entombed the Lord Thomas Mildmay and his Lady, who had issue seven sons and eight daughters, as is to be seen by their effigies on a fair monument.

About this town, as in many parts of Essex, they have large hopyards, in which at the time of gathering they employ many women for 6d. a day to pick and separate them. Those that are got in green, when they are ripe, they say are the best, the brown they sort by themselves, being lower prized, but I have found by experience to gather them in too green is not so good, for unless they be glutinous and stick to tho gatherer's fingers they are not come to their full virtue and ripeness. As soon as they have cleansed them from leaves and stems -they set them to dry on kilns, for if they neglect them three or four days 'twill discolour them; in 12 hours' time may be dried two kilns, but great care must be taken lest they burn. When they are dried it is good to lot them lie a week or more in the heap to air, for if they are put in bags to soon thev are apt to grow mouldy.

“Essex for the generality is a level and enclosed country, not so well planted with fruit trees as Kent, but in other respects as neatly husbanded. Out of this country and Suffolk they drive, like flocks of sheep, to London great legget (?) of turkeys.

“In Essex is a market town called Halstead, built on the declivity of a hill, and in the bottom of a river here Sir Samuel Trayn hath a fair house, ann. 1662. Five miles further in the road to London is another large market town called Braintree, on the top of a low hill, having adjoining to it another handsome town called Bockhen (Bocking), and by that a river. Between this town and Chelmsford, in the road formerly described, is accounted 10 miles.

“But let us pass forward to Springfield, by which in the road you shall have a view of that stately mansion, New Hall, which owned the Duke of Buckingham for lord in ’62. From the highway it hath a stately walk or riding to the house, set on both sides in exact order double rows of lime and ' hornbin ’ trees at such distance that at the end of this flourishing walk you may discover the front of the Duke’s magnificent palace, which with desires to have further satiated my greedy gazing eyes I left behind, and came to Boorham, where one Mr. Cammock hath a neat house and garden finely planted with outlandish trees, whose ever verdant tops overlook the vale, adding delight to travellers that pass that way.

“The founder of Colchester was Coellas or Coile earl of Colchester and king of Britain, who began his reign in the year of our Lord 262, ruling it for a certain time to the content of his subjects, till Constantius appointed by the Romans, passed over into this isle with an army, which prut Coyle in such dread that he immediately sent an embassage and concluded a peace, covenanting to pay the accustomed tribute and give to Constantius liis daughter in marriage, called Helena, a noble lady and learned, who was the mother of Constantine the Great. Shortly after Coyle died, after he had reigned as some write 27 years, or as others have it but 13 years. But to this day the townsmen of Colchester, in remembrance of King Coyle there found or keep in reparation a well railed about, in the chiefest street of the town, and on the top of the pump the effigies of King Coyle, and on each corner of this enclosure the town arms. Conduits they can have none, because the situation is on ground as high or higher than any hereabouts, I mean that which is walled. Sixteen churches and a ruinous castle for public buildings are reckoned within this town and her precincts. The castle (now a prison) for the county was the palace of King Coyle, of late years made famous for the suffering of those two worthy knights, Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas, who were here shot to death. In that place where they fell the grass at this day doth not grow or hide the earth, although it grows thick and plentiful round about. Seven thousand came into the town with my Lord Goring and these two knights being hotly pursued by the army under Sir Thomas Fairfax, so that they had no time to make provision, and yet for all that they held out eleven weeks with a great deal of gallantry against the enemy, being driven by extremity of hunger before they did yield it up to eat their horses. In this siege the suburbs of the town were much ‘ endamnified,’ but since for the most part repaired; but St. Buttall’s (Botolph’s) one of the fairest churches of the town is yet a ruinous spectacle by means of the siege. They after surrendering paid £1,000 for composition to the Parliament-"The chief manufacture of this town does consist in making of rugs and baize, which doth employ so many hands that they are able to make 10,000 able men. They have likewise enrichments from the sea by a river navigable for hoys to St. Leonards (Hythe), a part of the town. At the mouth of the river lies Cole, their port town.

" Five miles from Colchester in the road to Ipswich lies Nayland, a little market town in Suffolk, surrounded with rich meadows mellowed by a river running through the town, and half a mile from it lies Stoke, on the top of the hill, a town as big as Nayland; and between this and Sudbury on the River Stour, which runs to Colchester, lies Buash (Bures), Lamarsh, and Hene (Henny) Magna, where my worthy friend, Mr. Charles Forbinch, formerly parson of Sandford, in Oxfordshire by Oxon, doth live, and is now rector of this place, 1662, at which 1 io1.iso I had a hearty welcome for some weeks.

“ About five miles from this gentleman’s house, on the edge of Suffolk, lies Sudbury, a fair market town situate upon the River Stour, a part of it called Ballington (Balingdon) being in Essex. ’Tis beautiful with three fair churches, whose towers and steeples at some distance as you come out of Essex through Ballington, seem to stand in the form of an equilateral triangle. The churches’ names are St. Gregory’s, St. Peter’s, and All Hallows’. In the last the family of the Edens, who live now at Ballington, hath a fair monument. By this church there was a priory, now the house of Mr. How’s. (Robert How purchased Sudbury Priory in 1621.)

Here was likewise an abbey, some time the residence—or else the town was his birth-place— of the learned man Simon, of Sudbury, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.

"From Sudbury to Cambridge is. accounted twenty miles, but I found them long ones, the nearest way leads through Bulmer, next Water Belching (Belchamp Walter), which is about four miles from Sudbury. There is one parish more called Assington (Ashen) I went through before. I got out of this by way of Stoke (by Clare), which hath two inns in the road from Sudbury to Cambridge, here one Sir Jarvis Alloway hath an ancient house, formerly some monastery (Stoke College). Here is to be noted that this place is in the county of Suffolk, which is divided from Essex by the river Stour, that about Haverel (Haverhill) hath its fountain, which is a thoroughfare town on the road, 4 miles nearer Cambridge, and about 10 from Sudbury, The making of fustian and dimity is here a great trade, also about these parts saffron is much planted, but as to the discourse of the husbandry and planting of it, they gave me this account, viz.:— About midsummer when they design to new plant a ground, for they usually let the roots stand three or four years, they dig them up and dung the ground, and then set them again as thick as they can plant them, and 5 inches deep, that so they may hoe off the weeds for three or four years without spoiling the roots, for they let the weeds grow all the summer for cattle to feed on, and hoe them off about the middle of September a little before the saffron flowers begin to rise. In the first year’s planting the roots do yield but few flowers, the second and third years they bear flowers plentifully, and in the fourth year are dug up again to be dunged and planted as above said. When the flowers come up the people are dilligent to gather them in baskets and to take out the chives in the middle of them of a reddish colour, - and that is that which they call saffron. Then these chives are dried in an iron pan over the fire till they are so well dried that they are not apt to be mouldy.

Thus cured, a pound is valued at 25 shillings in these days, but formerly it was double the price of the weight of silver for saffron. These saffron heads or roots are grown so cheap that you may now in these parts buy a bushel of them for one shilling and sixpence, and sometimes a shilling, as the man at the "Dog” at Melsome, in the road between Royston and Cambridge told me. A little beyond Havrel (Haverhill) is Cambridgeshire. From Havrel to the University of Cambridge they have two ways, the one leads through a market town, if I am not mistaken, called Linton, which is the farthest, and the nearer through Ratton (Wratting), a rotten place in which is a poor inn where I was glad of a bed as hard as a board, and the country hereabouts is a very rotten soil, for the men as well as the women are forced to go in high iron pattens. Four miles forward and not far from my Lord Allington’s house I went by Balsom (Balsham) over Newmarket Heath, where there is a deep ditch thwarting the plains or heath commonly called Devil’s ditch, cast up as I suppose for a boundary between the East Angles and the Mercians. The way leads along the side of this ditch or trench from whence you have five or six miles distance a goodly prospect of the famous University of Cambridge, seated, in a spacious level.'

By an easy descent from these hills you shall come to Fulbourn, a country town, but remarkable because it hath two churches in one churchyard, built by two maids, and covered with moor reed, and are two distinct parish churches, as people then told me in ’62. From whence I went to Chesterton, for the description of which town and Cambridge I shall refer you to another journey, and speak but a little of it here.

“Cambridge, situate on the east side of the liver Cam, might have its name from thence, although some historians derive it from Can-t.aber, who 375 years before the Incarnation had there settled the muses’ seat, and albeit in many ages this city like many others hath tasted many woful fortunes, yet now it is beautified and fairly adorned with sixteen colleges and halls full stored with painful students. The most magnificent for building are Trinity and King’s College, joining to which is that famous structure built by Henry the Sixth, but finished by Henry the Seventh, called King’s College Chapel, for elegant workmanship equal if not superior to any church wrork elsewhere in England, having in it on the right side a fair library. This chapel runs in length without any pillars in the body to support the roof or aisles, thwarting from north to south as in most cathedrals, having curiously carved in stonework upon the inside of the walls, the arms of the then present kings, being divided in the midst to distinguish the choir from the body by a rare partition of joinery work, on which is erected a beautiful organ At the West end of the chapel on the right side is a staircase, by which I ascended the leads, where besides the view of Cam’s meanders courting fair Cambridge with embraces, I discovered a spacious plain of the largest extent that I have seen any in England, so that in this she doth outstrip her sister Oxford. But for sweet air, situation, and magnificient buildings, much beneath her, excepting the fabrick on which I stand, which yields to none in England. Upon the chapel at each corner mounting above the leads are four spires or tall pinnacles, and between these on the sides and ends lesser pinnacles.

“The schools of Cambridge are not to be compared to the durable monument of Bodley’s in Oxford, yet they have a fair market place, which Oxford wants, and at the upper end a conduit. (This was erected in 1624 at the expense of the famous carrier Hobson.) St. Mary’s Church here is well nigh as fair a building as ours at Oxford, but the black dirty streets do eclipse the splendour of their buildings.”

Friday, September 06, 2013

Threat of a 'Solar Farm' to Dean Lodge and Durcks Pigthtle at Belchamp St Paul

There is very likely to be a Roman site in the area, at Dean Lodge Field, Church Street, Belchamp St Paul, and it is under threat of being turned into a 'solar farm'.

Our archaeological sites are important. There is much that has never been explained about the archaeology of the edge of the Stour Valley between Clare and Melford. The 'Metal Detectorists'  say that there are signs of a Roman military building of some sort, and field-walking turns up a fair amount of Roman material, mostly tile. If the pattern here is the same as the edge of the valley around Melford, then one can say that there are evenly-spaced villas roughly two miles apart on the gentle south-facing slopes.

Essex archaeological sites are particularly valuable. The Roman occupation of Essex is not well understood, mainly because the dry soil isn't kind to any archaeology. It was very densely occupied due to the nearness of the Colonia at Colchester, and there are a surprisingly large number of roman roads criss-crossing  the area. The Roman buildings are detectable by their roof-tiles rather than their walls. Then, as now, there is precious little stone and the Romans did what the medieval inhabitants did, build out of wood. Detecting a Roman oak sill-plate would be next to impossible.
The roads themselves were very lightly built too, just like their medieval counterparts. The climate is kind and 'soft' roads sufficed, but leave very little trace. In short, East Anglian archaeology isn't spectacular, even though it was the most densely populated part of Britain.

We strongly suspect that there is some sort of Roman site here. Roman pottery was found at Langley Wood and Little Dean Lodge in 1913-23. This is part of an area that  lies within a Historic Environment Character Area (HECA) and Historic Environment Character Zones (HECZ).  The Historic Environment Management and Records Teams of Essex County Council are of the opinion that  a range of high quality archaeology  probably survives within the zone (2010. Braintree. Historic Environment Characterisation Project Essex County Council) 
'These sites constitute a finite, non-renewable resource vulnerable to damage and that Braintree District Council will seek to protect, enhance and preserve both sites and their settings.' (p4)
 It was distressing to hear that this site is part of a proposed 'Solar Farm'. This involves the installation and operation of a solar electricity generating plant along with all the required infrastructure, including PV panels, mounting frames, inverts, switchgear, access tracks, security fencing and pole mounted security cameras.  This involves piles of c 0.1m diameter being driven into the ground for support a framework over 2 metres high that holds the support solar panels. An archeological survey funded by the energy company proposing to build this industrial installation concludes
'Based on current evidence the site is shown to have potential for heritage assets to be present, particularly relating to the Roman period. Accordingly, the proposed scheme may have an impact on any archaeological remains that are present.'
This means 'Yes, there is probably archaeology there and Yes, it is going to be ruined by putting in the industrial equipment. if it is nearer the surface than 1.5 metres.
It isn't just the piles that will hurt the archaeology
Impacts on archaeological remains, if present, are likely to arise where groundworks associated with the scheme extend below the topsoil, thus the construction of the array frame, sub-stations and cable runs may have an impact.
 So, is there likely to be archaeology there and would it be interesting?
“Much pottery has been ploughed up at the top of the field W of the wood, 28 ins below the surface (78754403)”;  (Essex Historic Environment Record-EHER report)
Roman artefacts are recorded as having been recovered from within the site and to both the west and the north, and it is therefore considered likely that there are further heritage assets of Roman date within the site. These could range from additional artefacts in the ploughsoil to more substantial features such as field boundary ditches or settlement remains.
To the north of the site, on the edge of the study area, a large collection of Roman metalwork was recovered in the mid 1990s. The artefacts included 30 Roman coins and three broach fragments of Longton Down and Hod Hill type, along with various studs and rivets (Essex Historic Environment Record EHER 48136, Fig.2). On the western edge of the study area a scatter of Romano-British pottery was found in the 1980s (EHER 7045, Fig.2).
The St Paul's Hall/Church manorial site is close to the site.
Sources have suggested that masonry remains have been found on the site and they may perhaps be of Roman date (EHER 6992).
Yes, it seems that this was a roman site.
Not only is the archaeology likely to be destroyed, but a number of listed buildings around the site will be spoiled by their proximity to what will become an industrial area. To quote the report...
There is the potential for the development to have a limited impact on the setting of heritage assets (Listed Buildings) located outside the boundary of the development area.
It is probably best to ask the home-owners how limited that might be!

If you're as concerned as I am, there is time to object to these plans and make sure that Braintree District Council is aware of the concern of local historians and anyone who is keen on our vanishing countryside.

13/00832/FUL: Installation and operation of a solar farm and associated infrastructure, including PV panels, mounting frames, inverts, switchgear, access tracks, security fencing and pole mounted security cameras. Big Deere Lodge Field, Church Street, Belchamp St Paul, Essex

All quotes taken from the Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment  prepared for the applicant, Sovereign Energy Partners, by Ellen Heppell  June 2013

Information from Essex Historic Environment Record

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Great Drought

This is from the registers of Cotton, and is taken from the account of that parish in the Davy MS. 

"In the Christenings, Ao. 1652. This yeare were all our highways paved hard to the 23rd day of November, and the ditches as empty as in the greatest drought, and pastures as dry as at Midsummer, to the middle
of January. (Mirandum divinum). Further, the drought was more extreme in February than in any time before, neither was there any rayne till the middle of March, but the Pastures were never well till our Lady, 1653.
P. me, Gul. Smyth, Rector."

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Pentlow Church described by J.M. Wood, 1890

The following account of Pentlow Church has come to light. It is refreshing since it has not been slavishly copied from other sources. It includes a brief note  from the architect W. M. Fawcett, who was in charge of the restoration. Mr Wood was certainly correct that the round towers were common in Saxon times, but Pentlow Church  tower is later, probably datable to 1320.

 Notes on the Round Towers of Essex, Lamarsh and Pentlow. By J. M. WOOD, Esq 1890

(details of Lamarsh Church have not been included)
The name of the parish, Pentlow, is supposed to be derived from the word ‘Pent’ and the Saxon word ‘loiue’. The meaning of the former is well known, and the latter signifies an eminence ; so that, if I am correct, the name denotes a hill or eminence, pent, here at the twining of the river Stour.
There is no mention of Pentlow in the Saxon chronicles, so far as I can ascertain; neither is there any mention of a church at Pentlow in the Domesday Book, the only entry being as follows : " Pentelauua was held by a free woman, in the time of King Edward, for a manor and four hides and three virgates", etc.; and at the time of the Survey was held by Ralph Baynard, etc.
The church is delightfully situated in the valley of the river Stour, and within a few hundred feet of the river, and adjoins Pentlow Hall, which is a moated house, and was once the home of a Norman noble. It stands just within the present boundary of the county of Essex, and overlooks the village of Cavendish, in the county of Suffolk. It is about five miles north -north-west of Sudbury, and about ten miles north of Lamarsh Church. The church is said to be dedicated to St. Gregory (see Morant), but in Bacon's Liber Regis vel Thesaurus Rerum Ecclesiasticarum it is stated to be St. George, which is probably correct, and consists of a round, embattled tower, rectangular nave, and chancel, with a semi-circular apse, and a Lady chapel on the north side, adjoining the church.
This chapel belongs to the Kempe family, and contains a beautiful monument in good preservation, and worth a visit. In the semi-circular apse is a fine altar-tomb, probably belonging to the Felton family, the date 1542 being scratched upon it ; but there is no inscription. The old Parish Register is in excellent preservation, and dates from 1539.
The church is a remarkable structure with striking features, having the peculiar appearance of being circular at both ends, viz., a round tower at the west end, and a circular apse at the east.
Having examined the church as a whole, with an unbiased mind, and some degree of care, I was once more led to believe that the tower belonged originally to a structure of greater antiquity than the existing church, for the reason that the walls of the tower are of much greater thickness than the walls of the nave ; besides, the character of the rubble-masonry appears different in the walling ; and for other reasons which will be hereafter stated.
The nave, chancel, and circular apse were built probably in the fourteenth century, the style being Early Pointed. The nave and chancel are separated by a fine pointed arch of the above period, being of rather large proportions, spanning the whole width of the nave. But a question may suggest itself, Why was the circular apse built in the fourteenth century, being a style so peculiarly Norman? To account for this one is led to suppose that the original Norman church was either destroyed or removed, and the existing structure built on the foundations. Now as to the tower, which, as before stated, is at the west end of the nave, and is so placed that the walls of the nave appear to be built into the circular work of the tower.
I have not been able to ascertain with any definite degree of certainty if the walls of the nave are really bonded into the walling of the tower, forming, as it were, one original piece of rubble masonry; or whether the walls abut, forming a division such as exists at Broomfield, the tower there being entirely separated from the walls of the nave. The reason that one is not able to settle this important point is because the tower is plastered over within and without. I am, however, strongly under the impression that the tower-walling is not part and parcel of the nave wall, but merely abuts.
The tower, like the others described, is perfectly round on plan, except where it is joined on to the nave-wall. It is clear internally from base to summit, with the exception of a wooden floor and ladders reaching up to the framing for carrying the five bells, which have the following inscriptions upon them :
"Miles Graye made me, 1665." (Letters are small capitals.)
"Miles Graye made me, 1662." (Letters are small capitals.)
"Miles Graye made me, 1628." (Letters are large capitals.)
"John Thornton made me, 1711." (Letters are large capitals.)
The walls are nearly perpendicular both internally and externally, the tower being about the same diameter at base and summit. Practically speaking, there is no batter to the tower.
The proportion of the tower is 2* diameters in height, being 51 ft. high from the nave-floor to the top of the stone works forming the embattlements, or 48 ft. high to the top of the flat lead roof. It has an external diameter of nearly 22 ft., and an internal diameter of 13 ft. 2 in.; the walls therefore, being of the great thickness of 4 ft. 5 in. to 4 ft. 6 in. ; the walls of the nave being only from 2 ft. 6 in. to 3 ft. thick.
The rubble-masonry of the tower is of a rough character, similar in many respects to that in the towers of Great Leighs, Broomfield, and Lamarsh ; the materials being also entirely local, viz., rounded and angular flints, besides nodules of water-worn sandstones brought probably by the " drift", and picked up in the river-gravels. All are bedded in coarse lime-mortar.
In the inside of the tower, about half way up, the original rubble-masonry may be seen, not having been plastered over. From its appearance one would at once say that it was built at an early period, and like the rubble-work in the other towers before described, very little attempt has been made to lay the material in course. But in the upper part of the tower a different condition of things exists. Here the rubble-masonry has been carefully built in course ; each stone seems to have been separately set and pointed. One can see at once that the upper part of the tower is rather of a later period, or been rebuilt, probably the latter.
Externally, the tower is unlike Great Leighs and Broomfield, in that its summit is finished off by being embattled with Barnack stone, while the before mentioned towers are all surmounted by spires. Beneath the flint embattlements are a few odd pieces of Roman tiles.
The tower at one time had nine openings in it, viz., three in the lower part, three at a higher level, and three a short distance from the top. These openings, or their remains, are to be seen on the south, west, and north faces, immediately above one another. The lowest opening on the south face is a mere rectangular slit, 6 in. wide, and 2 ft.. 8 in. high, having Barnack stone quoins, and a square stone head or lintel slightly splayed ; while that on the west face is a large, pointed, perpendicular window in a wood frame ; the original slit having probably been cut away to make room for the window. On the north face, and at the same level, are the remains of a similar slit to that on the south face ; but it is now filled in, the stone quoins and head remaining. The openings in the next tier are also rectangular slits about 9 in. wide, and of a similar character to those below; and look much like the original openings. The three upper windows, or louvres, are pointed, having Perpendicular tracery and stone mullions. From the position and appearance of the rectangular openings, one is led to think they formed part of the original design of the tower, while the pointed windows are of a much later period, being probably the work of mediaeval architects. The west window in the lowest tier was, no doubt, inserted for the purpose of giving more light to the interior of the lower part of the tower, which is now occupied as a vestry. The three upper, pointed windows were evidently inserted at the same time as the lowest west window, or vice verse, being of the same character and period. These windows or louvres give light to the bells, and were, no doubt, inserted for some purpose in connection therewith, probably when the bells were fixed.
The only entrance to the tower is from the nave, through a stone semi-circular tower-arch of Norman design, 4 ft. 7 in. wide, and 10 ft. 3 in. high to the soffit. The inner ring or intrados of the arch is perfectly plain, also the sides of the opening; and when looked at towards the tower, from the inside of the nave, it has the appearance of an ordinary, plain, semi-circular, Norman arch with square stone quoins. This inner ring of stone, I am led to think, formed the original tower-arch.
Having entered the tower, and looked towards the east, the arch presents itself under entirely a different aspect. Instead of looking, as one would have expected to do, upon a plain, semi-circular tower-arch, one sees a beautiful early Norman semi-circular doorway fixed within the tower-arch. (See sketch, fig. 3.) The semi-circular arch of the doorway is formed of plain rings of stone and a bold, half-round, ogee-moulding. It is supported on each side of the opening by a beautiful, slender stone column, the shaft of which is quite plain, and about 5| in. diameter, having a cap or capital richly carved with floral decoration, the design being different on each capital, and on each face of the capital visible. The shafts are supported on pedestals having plain mouldings, the stone of which the columns are formed being Barnack of a rather coarse texture, while the stone forming the arch is a close-grained limestone.
A great part of this beautiful doorway, with its columns and mouldings, are built partly, as before stated, within the tower-arch, and made to appear as forming part of it, while a part of the carved capitals, etc., are buried within the walling of the tower.
On looking at the doorway as a whole, it certainly strikes one as being entirely out of place, and having the appearance of being stuck into its present position, forming in no way any part of the original tower-opening. To account for part of the arch-columns and / capitals being buried in the fj. wall, it seems probable that the walling had to be cut away to ' accommodate the doorway in its new position, and when fixed the rubblework was made good again, care only being taken to preserve the contour of the circular work of the tower, thereby allowing the flintwork to overlap or bury part of the doorway.
Just above the centre of the semi-circular arch forming the doorway, and built into the walling of the tower, is Norman grotesque head, which certainly appears out of place, and looks as if it had been placed there with the object of preserving it.
Neither can I think that the semi-circular arch forming the doorway is coeval with the beautiful columns which support it. One can hardly imagine such delicate columns designed to support an arch carrying such a mass of super-incumbent material ; nor can one imagine such carved columns forming part of an arch devoid of all ornament. Neither must it be forgotten that the stone of which the columns are made is of an entirely different character to that forming the arch.
The doorway as a whole certainly has the appearance of having been made up of pieces belonging to two different doorways (probably parts of the north or south entrances to the original church), and that they were placed in their present position with the sole object of preserving them. All the openings in the inside of the tower, especially the slits, are heavily splayed on all sides except the top, the splays in this tower being much heavier than in those previously described. The quoins of the splays are formed in Barnack stone and coarse, shelly limestone, and appear to have been inserted at a later period ; but on this point I am not particularly clear.
In the nave, and close to the north door, is a very handsome stone font, probably of the transitional Norman period, although stated by some to be late Saxon, say 1150. It is in one block, 2 ft. 9 in. square, and 1 ft. 6 in. deep, and I am not quite clear if it is Barnack stone or a coarse, shelly limestone. All its four faces are beautifully and richly carved with floral designs, and on each face the design is different. The four corners are represented by four columns having carved capitals and moulded pedestals. This font is probably coeval with the columns forming part of the doorway in the tower, and no doubt belonged to the original church. The font stands upon a rubble masonry pedestal about 2 ft. high, and is surmounted with an exceedingly elegant wood canopy which opens with doors (being a good specimen of the florid style), of about the fifteenth century.
There are many other points of interest in the church worthy of remark ; but they are external to the province of this paper.
It has been asserted by ancient and modern county topographers, besides well known antiquarians, that this tower is strictly Norman ; others say that it is after the Danish manner of building, whatever that may have been; while others declare that the original Norman church had the existing tower-arch, with its patchwork columns and ornamental capitals, for its western doorway or main entrance, and that the tower was built up against this old Norman doorway at the time the existing Early English church was built.
On visiting Pentlow Church I found the nave had lately been restored by that eminent architect and antiquarian, Mr. William Fawcett, F.S.A., of Cambridge ; so I determined to write to him and ask his opinion with reference to the tower and the west entrance. He kindly replied as follows :
"At Pentlow there must, I think, have been a church before the round tower was built. We cannot imagine any one so foolish as to build that beautiful west door in a position in which it would hardly ever be seen, and with parts of it buried in the tower-wall. The tower-builders probably intended to remove it to some other position in due time ; or if not, probably did not admire it, but thought it old-fashioned. It is astonishing how little the work of one generation was appreciated by the immediate succeeding ones. There is nothing either in the tower that would show it to be earlier than the nave, so I feel no doubt about it myself. There is a similar case at Polstead in Suffolk, near Bures. In both these cases they have evidently been elaborate and stately west entrances."
It hardly becomes me to differ with those who take this latter view, especially this eminent antiquarian, but it certainly appears to me, from the style of the tower, its proportions as compared with the other Essex towers, the thickness of the walls as compared with those in the church, the character of the rubble masonry, and ,for other reasons before mentioned, that the tower is of greater antiquity than any other part of the church, excepting, perhaps, the font and columns, and that the tower-arch proper is coeval with the tower.
Had the tower been built at the same period as the church, or even at a later period, it is probable its east face would have been built flat, for the convenience of abutting the nave roof against, whereas it is round, necessitating an awkward joint by cutting the nave-roof into the circular walling of the tower. Mr. Gage, in his paper before the Society of Antiquaries in 1829, makes no observation on this round-towered church, which is remarkable, as its features are striking.
It is evident he was not aware of its existence, although he visited Bartlow Church, just on the borders of Cambridge, within about fourteen miles of Pentlow, with its round tower, and gives a drawing of it in his paper.
Once more quoting from Gage's paper, in which he says, "The Saxon copy of Psychomachia of Prudentius, in the Cottonian Collection at the British Museum, contains an illumination or drawing of a church with a round tower : it was not unreasonable to expect to find at least one tower that might pass as Anglo-Saxon, but all these thoughts vanished when the towers themselves came before me in review."
To satisfy my curiosity I have examined this beautiful illuminated eleventh century MS., and on p. 7 I find an illuminated drawing of a building which I assume to be a sacred edifice. This building has a round tower or turret. On p. 28 is a drawing in perspective of what appears to be a square fortress or castle, the angles of which are round towers. Proceeding further, on p. 33 is an illuminated drawing of a building, probably a church, and the one referred to by Gage, having what I take to be an unmistakable round tower having a rectangular opening in the base, with a semi-circular arch over it : this has the appearance of being the main entrance into the tower. At a higher level are two round holes or openings with a rectangular slit between them ; at a higher level still the tower is smaller in diameter, with similar openings.
Besides this particular Saxon MS. there are others also containing illustrations Of round towers. Surely this is evidence to support Mr. Brock's idea that the origin of the round towers of Suffolk and Norfolk are due to the Saxons. But there is one thing certain, and that is, if the Saxons did not build round towers, they were cognisant of the style; otherwise they would not have illustrated them in their manuscripts.
Fergusson, in his History of Architecture, (states, with reference to round churches and towers, the following :
"The idea of round building seems to date from very early times. They existed in the form of basilicas and tombs at Rome ; and a round tower is to be found at the Port of Ravenna, attached to the Church of St. Apollinare in Classe. The church is said to have been commenced in 538, and dedicated 549 A.D. It is of the Romanesque style."
With reference to the round towers of Suffolk and Norfolk, he states that there are in Norfolk and Suffolk some forty or fifty churches with round western towers ; but as a matter of fact there are one hundred and seventy -four, 1 which seem undoubtedly to be mere modifications of the western round nave of Scandinavian churches. These Norfolk churches with round towers may consequently be looked upon as safe indexes of the existence of Scandinavian influences in the Eastern Counties, and also as interesting examples of the mode in which a compromise is frequently hit upon between the feelings of intrusive races and the habits of the previous inhabitants. It can scarcely be doubted that round naved and round towered churches existed in the Eastern Counties anterior to the Norman conquest ; and if any still remain, they have not been described. The earliest that are known were erected during the Norman period, and extend certainly down to the end of the Edwardian period.
Now with reference to these remarks of Fergusson's, I am somewhat at a loss to know how he arrived at such a conclusion, viz., that the round towers of Norfolk owe their origin or development to the existence of Scandinavian influence in the Eastern Counties. The expression, " Scandinavian influence", is somewhat broad and vague. It ^is difficult to know exactly what Fergusson intended to imply. It may be that he intended to apply it to all those races which invaded Britain from the first coming of the Saxons down to the Norman conquest ; or, on the other hand, he may have intended it to mean the Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes. I assume the latter. We have no record, as far as I am aware, of any Swedish settlement in our islands. As for the Norwegians, they only occupied, as far as I know, the Orkneys and Shetlands and the northern parts of Scotland, whereas there is evidence to prove conclusively that the Danes occupied in considerable numbers all our northern and eastern counties.
According to the Saxon chronicles the Danes first landed in England about 787 A.D.; but I believe they made piratical invasions prior to this date. It was not, however, until 866 that they invaded Britain with the idea of colonising a part of it, and it was not until 870 that they conquered East Anglia. From the first landing of the Scandinavian race until 1013, when the Danish kings commenced to rule, the Scandinavian invasion may be looked upon as a period of continuous, barbaric fighting, robbing, plundering, and burning ; besides it is recorded that in several instances they burnt many early monasteries, etc. Under these conditions, and many others which I could mention, it hardly seems probable that architecture owes much of its development to Scandinavian influence.
If the round towers owe their origin to Scandinavian influence, why are they only to be found in such a small portion of the country they invaded ? I am under the impression that during the period the Scandinavian races were invading our island, architecture in their own country was in a rude and undeveloped condition. So far as my research into Scandinavian history has yet carried me, I have failed to discover any record or trace of circular building, except circular barrows, either in Norway, Sweden, or Denmark ; and further, I am under the impression that prior to the commencement of the eleventh century the Scandinavian races had not embraced Christianity, and were to a certain extent barbarians. Of course I am well aware of the existence of their round churches and semicircular apses of the later part of the eleventh century, a style they may probably have learnt from our own island.
Had Fergusson stated that the round towers of Norfolk owed their origin to the Saxons, I would not so much have doubted it, as it seems more probable that the Saxons could have introduced or developed round towers, coming as they did from that part of the Continent where undoubtedly architecture was in a higher state of development ; besides which, it is recorded that round towers existed on the Rhine at early times.
In offering these latter remarks I must ask you to accept them with caution, as I have not yet sufficiently studied the subject from the point of view mentioned. I have merely thrown out the remarks as a suggestion.