Category Archives: Literary Connections

Echos of Kent Treble Bob Majors and Terrington St Johns

The village of Terrington St Johns, Norfolk sits between Wisbech in the west and Kings Lynn in the east. Its splendid St John’s Parish Church lies to the north of the village at Peyke’s Cross.

St John The Baptist Church, Terrington St Johns

St John The Baptist Church

I have never seen any reference that links it to the novel by Dorothy. L. Sayers, The Nine Taylors unlike its near neighbour Terrington St Clements, but during a recent visit I was reminded of The Reverend Venables vaulting ambition by a plaque in the church commemorating a peel of bells, although Theodore Venables and his ringers had eight Bells at their disposal where the church at Terrington St Johns has six.

Memorial Plaque Peal of Bells, Terrington St John

Memorial Plaque

“There are, perhaps, a few heavier rings, said the Rector, but I hardly know where you would rival us for fullness and sweetness of tone. Number seven, in particular, is a most noble old bell, and so is the tenor, and the John and Jericho bells are also remarkably fine in fact, the whole ring is most “tuneable and sound”, as the old motto has it.

“It is a full ring of eight”

The Reverend Venables to Lord Peter Wimsey

The Nine Tailors

By Dorothy L. Sayers

A Novel by Anthony Trollope, The Australian Outback and Mepal A Village In The Fens

The village of Mepal sits on the eastern edge of the Hundred Foot Washes, in days gone bye the traffic to and from the City of Ely would trundle through the village passing over the Old and New Bedford Rivers and the Three Pickerels public house.

St Marys Church, Mepal

St Marys Church, Mepal

On the western edge of the Hundred Foot Washes you will find Engine Bank which runs northward along the Counter Drain and The Old Bedford River (River Delph) taking you passed the Mepal Pumping Station and Fortrey’s Hall, onto Welshes Dam and Welney in Norfolk.

Mepal Pumping Station

Mepal Pumping Station

John Fortrey a London merchant built the hall and his son Sir James Fortrey was responsible for extending the building, there is a plaque in the small church of St Marys, Mepal to Sir James commemerating his adventures, the Fortrey Family were heavily involved along with the Duke of Bedford in the drainage of The Fens.

Fortrey's Hall

Fortrey’s Hall

Fortrey Hall and the surrounding area is featured in Anthony Trollope’s novel John Caldigate which was first published 1879, not as well-known as his Barchester Chronicles but can be recommend as good read on a cold winters evening, it takes in places as far apart as the Australian Outback, Newmarket, Cambridge and The Cambridgeshire Fens. The description of the area in the novel in my view is not very flattering and certainly not one in which I agree!

“Folking is not a place having many attractions of its own, beyond the rats. It lies in the middle of the Cambridgeshire fens, between St. Ives, Cambridge, and Ely. In the two parishes of Utterden and Netherden there is no rise of ground which can by any stretch of complaisance be called a hill. The property is bisected by an immense straight dike, which is called the Middle Wash, and which is so sluggish, so straight, so ugly, and so deep, as to impress the mind of a stranger with the ideas of suicide. And there are straight roads and straight dikes, with ugly names on all sides, and passages through the country called droves, also with ugly appellations of their own, which certainly are not worthy of the name of roads. The Folking Causeway possesses a bridge across the Wash, and is said to be the remains of an old Roman Way which ran in a perfectly direct line from St. Neots to Ely. When you have crossed the bridge going northward,—or north-westward,—there is a lodge at your right hand, and a private road running, as straight as a line can be drawn, through pollard poplars, up to Mr. Caldigate’s house.”

From: Anthony Trollope’s John Caldigate, Chapter I: Folking

 

 


Web Sites of Interests:

Parks and Gardens Fortreys Hall

Mepal Parish Web Site

Mepal

Ouse Washes Mepal Pumping Stations

Dorothy L Sayers Childhood Memories, Bluntisham

At the end of 1897, the future great crime novelist and classical scholar Dorothy L Sayers arrived at the railway station of Bluntisham cum Earith in the Fenlands of Huntingdonshire, she was between four and five at the time,  in later life she said that she did not remember the train journey from Oxford to Bluntisham but remembered the walk from the station to the rectory. Her Mother and her Father who had just taken up the living of Bluntisham had arrive a few days earlier.

The rectory where Dorothy spent a lot of her childhood, now called Bluntisham House can still be seen as you travel from St Ives in the west to Ely in the north east. The railway station has now long gone but if if you take a walk along the banks of The Great River Ouse you can still see the pillars that supported the rail tracks across the fenland.

SONY DSC

The Photo shows The Great River Ouse in flood, the pillars that supported the tracks in the foreground and St Marys Church,  Bluntisham in the background.


Web Links of Interest:

The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory by Deborah Alun-Jones

The Official Site of the renowned English crime writer Dorothy L Sayers

The Last Place God Made

In Search of St Paul’s Church Fenchurch St Paul

Dorothy L Sayers Cambridgeshire Connections

A Lake District Connection Norfolk

Now if you have a fancy for a trip to the Lake District, the last thing you want is to be sitting in a car heading in the direction of Norwich and Diss, but that is where we found ourselves on a hot sunny day in July. The destination was the small village of Forncett St. Peter, Norfolk.

 

If you think I have lost my bearings never mind my sense of direction you may well be right, but I do have an explanation in that the village of Forncett St. Peter has impeccable Lakeland connections. It is where Dorothy Wordsworth lived and worked for around six years and her brother the famous poet William visited while studying at Cambridge.

 

St. Peters Church, Forncett St Peter, Norfolk, England

St. Peters Church, Forncett St Peter, Norfolk, England

Cookson Memorial, The Wordsworth Connection, St. Peters Church, Forncett St Peter, Norfolk, England

Cookson Memorial, The Wordsworth Connection, St. Peters Church

 

The Gates to The Old Rectory, Forncett St. Peter, Norfolk, England


Useful Links:

Treasures of the Wordsworth Trust

Biography of Dorothy-Wordsworth

“Villagers de luxe” Swaffham Prior

If you happened to be passing Swaffham Prior Cambridgeshire, lets say from Cambridge on your way to Newmarket in late 1958, you may have noticed a couple, walking sticks in hand supporting one another as they slowly progress up the slight incline from their cottage to the twin churches of St Mary’s and St Cyriac and St Julitta.

The couple are Edwin Muir, Orcadian, Poet, Critic and Translator and his wife Willa, Novelist, Translator and Essayist, they have been living in Priory Cottage, Swaffham Prior since August 1956 and this short occasional walk was all that Edwin could manage in what turned out to be the last few weeks of his life.

Willa describes their time in The Village of Swaffham Prior in Chapter 21 of her book Belonging.

Priory Cottage, Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire from The Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta

“From any outside angle the cottage looked attractive. It had a walled garden behind it, as well as a garage; its front door was on the main street of the Village and we walked straight into a spacious sitting-room, made out of two original small rooms which gave two different heights to the ceiling. Most old English cottages are cursed with very small rooms, and as soon as we walked into this large room we nodded to each other and said: “This is it.”

The front casement windows looked out on two parish churches, one on either side of a hill. The left-hand one had a dilapidated octagonal Norman tower, but its nave had been roofed over in the nineteenth century and except for the tower it was weatherproof. The right-hand one was in Perpendicular style; it had a fine tall belfry, quite whole, and a clock—face, but its nave was a ruined shell.”

From Belonging by Willa Muir

“One unexpected pleasure was added, the excellent peal of eight bells in the tower of the right-hand church opposite our cottage. When the Fens used to be flooded, the little hill was a place of refuge well above the waters, and the bells had sounded over the countryside as a guide.

They were such good bells that the champion bell-ringers of the district, in the neighbouring village of Burwell, used to spend a whole Saturday afternoon every now and then practising on them. We listened with delight to the intricate patterns they played, as the bells wove in and out; this was a new experience to us, for that art of bell-ringing is found only in England and we had never before lived beside a peal of such bells.”

From Belonging by Willa Muir

Now is that not reminiscent of Dorothy L Sayers Nine Taylors!

If you take the time to follow in their footsteps and continue along the path which winds past the Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta, (Willa’s Right Hand One) which is now under the care of The Churches Conservation Church you can exit the old graveyard through the top right hand corner gate and into the modern burial ground where today you will find the last resting place of Edwin and Willa Muir and perhaps “sit on the bench under a great round of sky.”

Edwin and Willa Muir’s Last Resting Place

Edwin and Willa Muir’s grave with the tower of St Cyriac and St Julitta in the background


Useful Links:

Edwin Muir

Willa Muir

The Last Place God Made

The Dun Cow, Christchurch

The Dun Cow, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, Engalnd

The Dun Cow in Christchurch on the Cambridgeshire Norfolk boundary where the author Dorothy L Sayers Father was rector until his death in 1928. At one time there was a total of three pubs in the area but today the Dun Cow is the only one left to feed and water the hungry.

Dorothy’s description of Christchurch is to the point and says it all;
“Christchurch is the last place God made, and when He’d finished he found He’d Forgotten the staircase!”

I like the idea of Dorothy and her Husband Mac visiting her Mother and Father in Christchurch and on Sunday mornings attending church, as soon as the Reverend Sayers had pronounced the benediction Mac would be seen making his way to the Dun Cow public house.

Jane Austen, Bath, A Church In Rutland and A Line From Northanger Abbey

Now I must own up to being partial to a Jane Austen story, I have a preference for the written rather than the celluloid but that does not mean that I have not indulged in watching Amanda Root in Persuasion.

It still remains a favourite although Northanger Abbey with Peter Firth comes a close second, not because it is a purest version or is faithful to any preconceived notions of how a Jane Austen novel should be represented, it is simply because Bath features in all its splendour and secondly due to the final declaration by Mr Tilney to Mrs Moorland ,

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion; but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.”

Yes I know it is not Jane Austen and therefore not in the novel but it does appeal to my sense of the romantic or some would say the ridiculous.

The pictures Below are of St Peters Church, Brooke in the county of Rutland it featured In the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice staring Keira Knightley as Miss Bennett.