Category Archives: Dorothy L Sayers

The Last Place God Made

The Dun Cow, Christchurch

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.

 

In Search of St Paul’s Church Fenchurch St Paul

The Parish Church of Fenchurch St Paul which features in The Nine Tailors by Dorothy. L. Sayer’s is like Ely Cathedral it dominates the fenland landscape where the novel is set.

Ely Cathedral, Ely Cambridgeshire

Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire

In seeking what church was the inspiration behind St Paul’s in Fenchurch St Paul a cautionary approach is needed. If you take to literally approach you could argue, as Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter came to grief on a snowy New Year’s eve while crossing the Thirty Foot Drain at Frogs Bridge, therefore in reality if you turn left at Bedlham Bridge and traverse along the Sixteen Foot Bank you will discover that once upon a time there was an Inn called the Wheatsheaf on your right hand side, now a private dwelling.

If you continue a little further on you will find a turning to the village of Christchurch where Dorothy’s father was rector after leaving Bluntisham until his death in 1928.

Memorial To The Rev Sayers, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire,

Memorial To The Rev Sayers, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire,

“Bunter turned his torch upon the signpost and read upon the sign, Fenchurch St Paul, there was no other direction ahead, the road marched on side by side into an eternity of winter”

So it is safe to deduce that Christ Church in the village of Christchurch is a good choice but…….

The Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, England

Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire.

Although as you can see it is a fine place of worship and has its own distinct charm it does not fit the description or the drawings by the Architect W. J. Redhead in the book, so we will have to look in another direction.

Hear lies the problem there are a number of good candidates, Walpole St Peters for example which was used in the 1974 TV adaptation, but still it does not quite meet all the criteria.

St Peters Church, Walpole St Peters, Norfolk, Englan

St Peters Church, Walpole St Peters, Norfolk, England

Rather than carrying on and on, perhaps if below I display a collage of pictures which could be listed as possibilities you can select your own preference.

It is more than likely that the Parish Church of Fenchurch St Paul is a composite of many or is it a church in the mind’s eye and imagination of the creator.


Web Links:

Past Offences Review of Dorothy. L. Sayers The Nine Tailors

Dorothy L Sayers, Cambridgeshire Connections

Dorothy L Sayers Cambridgeshire Connections

Bluntisham

This was the home of Dorothy L Sayers writer and creator of the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey.

The Old Rectory - Bluntisham Cambridgeshire

Her father was rector of St Marys Church Bluntisham between 1897 and 1917 before moving to the Parish Church in Christchurch.

He was responsible for the partial restoration and expansion to a ring of eight bells in 1910 which was only completed in 2004 when the bells were rehung in a new iron frame. This made a full circle ringing possible for the first time for 160 years. Perhaps an inspiration for his daughter’s novel The Nine Tailors.

Bluntisham Across The Flooded Great River Ouse

It is said that the names of some of her characters in The Nine Taylors were inspired by the stone masons inscriptions in Bluntisham Churchyard a walk through the long grass failed to discover a H. Gotobed or an Ezra Wilderspin, but when all hope was almost lost we stumbled on a Thoday, a pity that it was not a William or James or even a Mary.

Bluntisham_Cambridgeshire-Memory of Thoday

Christchurch

Christchurch_Cambridgeshire-Village Sign

Henry and Helen Sayers moved from Bluntisham to Christchurch in 1917 and was rector there until his death in 1928.

Christchurch Parish Church -1

Dorothy L Sayers it is said preferred Bluntisham, but was a frequent visitor to her parents home in Christchurch. She is said to have stated; “Christchurch is the last place God made, and when He’d finished he found He’d Forgotten the staircase!”

Henry Sayers photograph can still be seen in the vestry, the commemorative tablet to the couple was placed by parishioners at on the west end of the nave. They are buried in a grave on the north east side of the churchyard which was originally unmarked but their last resting place is now celebrated by a marble stone bearing their names.

Memory of Henry Sayers

Christchurch-1 Memory of Henry and Helen Sayers

March

St Wendra Church is situated on the outskirts of the fenland market town of March. Now surrounded by housing mainly of the modern variety, but this does not detract from the experience of crossing the threshold and encountering the heavenly angles suspended in all their glory.

March_Cambridgeshire-St Wendreda's Church (2)

March_Cambridgeshire-St Wendreda's Church (3)

They are justifiably world famous and have been admired by many, notably Sir John Betjeman and Dorothy L Sayers .

March_Cambridgeshire-St Wendreda's Church (1)

Miss Sayers has Mrs Venables the rectors wife in The Lord Peter Wimsey novel The Nine Tailors compare the hummer beamed angle roof in Fenchurch St Pauls with those of Needham Market and March

“of course the angel roof is our great showpiece, I think myself it is lovelier than the ones in March and Needham Market”.

We did try to make our own comparison by visiting the church in Needham Market, Suffolk but found it locked with no indication who held a key, perhaps we may try an other day.?