St Mary and All Saints Church and Pilton Manor House sits not far from The River Nene which meanders through the Northamptonshire countryside.
You have to make a little effort to get here as Pilton Main Street ends a long time before you reach the church or manor house and although it is said that any ghosts or apparitions associated with Pilton Manor were put to rest by the builders during the renovations in the nineteen seventies when they found a skeleton at the foot of the Jacobean staircase.
You still might think twice of visiting as they decided not to disturb the remains further and left them there for the rest of eternity who ever the unfortunate soul may have been, although rumour has it that it was a Catholic Priest taking refuge In one of the two priest holes provide by the Lords of the manor.
Nine and half miles north east of Bury St Edmunds on the A143 on its way to Great Yarmouth lies the village of Stanton with its two churches, All Saints which is located in the village centre and our destination, if we can find it, The Church of St John the Baptist.
I am not very optimistic, I spent years traveling past Stanton in an other life time and did not know of its existence, it is not visible from the A143 and the sat nav takes you right into the village rather than left where St John the Baptist Church sits but fortunately we found ourselves on Old Barningham Road where you can see the tower beyond the trees.
“This evocative, partially ruined flint church has a bold tower and fabulous fourteenth-century windows. The churchyard is an oasis of trees in unhedged farmland and the floor of the roofless nave and chancel is carpeted with grass. An idyllic spot to stumble across.”
Elsworth in Cambridgeshire sits to the south of the A14 between Cambridge in the south east and Huntingdon in the north west.
As we drove into the village looking for the church and the blue plaque to Rev W Awdry on a warm sunny day in June 2021, the penny began to drop that this was not our first visit, it was in fact 10 years ago back on 31 May 2011 when we were totally unaware of The Thomas The Tank Engine connection.
The quest for the “anthropomorphised fictional steam locomotive” (wikipedia definition) in Elsworth started when we visited Emneth Norfolk back in November 2018.
The Rev W Awdry moved the Elsworth the year that the Railway Series second book Thomas the Tank Engine was published he went on to write five titles while he was rector here before moving Emneth in Norfolk in 1953.
“Sometimes, the Best Adventures are the Ones We can only Dream about.”
Heading north from Sudbury on the A134 to Bury St Edmunds you will find Long Melford on your left about ten minutes into your journey the last resting place of Edmund Blunden the first world war poet and author of Undertones of War.
“Cricket to us was more than play, It was a worship in the summer sun.” Edmund Blunden
Around the same time as you travel on your journey you could be forgiven for not noticing the direction on the right to the village of Acton, it has much of interest the Murder of John Foster by his wife Catherine by dumpling poisoning, ghostly horses, hidden treasure and the connection to Charles Dickens and Bleak House.
Deep in the vaults of All Saints Church, Acton, Suffolk is laid to rest beside his Mother and Father The Miser of Acton, William Jennens, when he died at the age of 96 on the 19 June 1798 he was known as the richest commoner in England., what happened next in his story some believe was one of Charles Dickens inspirations for the Jarndyce v Jarndyce case in his novel Bleak House.
The case of Jennens v Jennens went on for over 100 years and if you would like to find out more about William Jennens, his family and connection to Charles Dickens and Bleak House, Charles Dickens and the Great Jennens Case by Laurence Ince is a good place to start.
“I will die here where I have walked. And I will walk here, though I am in my grave. I will walk here until the pride of this house is humbled.”Bleak House
As you leave St Ives Cambridgeshire to the west heading to Huntingdon, you may or may not notice the village sign of Houghton and Wyton, it can be easily missed especially if your mind is on horticultural matters and are making a beeline for what used to be Huntingdon Garden centre a few Yards (Old English Money) further along the road.
The sign is much more memorable than it once was a few years ago when it was faded by the ravages of time.
Anyone who knows me will know that gardening is neither a passion nor an interest and I would recommended turning left and taking the time to visit Houghton and Wyton and I am sure you will not be disappointed, you can always go for gardening supplies latter.
I remember the visit to Old Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire to this day for many reasons, it was early January 2011, a bright sunny day when we found ourselves entering the village after what appeared to be heading the car in the direction of infinity and beyond for a long, long time, although Old Bolingbroke sits only a few miles west of Spilsby.
Bolingbroke is steeped in history with its ancient monument Bolingbroke Castle the birth place of John O Gaunt’s son Henry Bolingbroke the future King Henry IV. It also played its part in the First English Civil War. In 1652 the towers and walls where destroyed by dumping them into the moat to stop it being used in any further military conflicts.
While wandering around the church of St Peter and St Pauls which was built by John O Gaunt in or around 1363 and which had unfortunately suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell and his friends in 1643.
We happened to meet a gentleman passing our way, entering into a conversation as you do when strangers pass the time of day,
”what a lovely day it was for the time of year, your accent is not from this part of the world, where are you from, Edinburgh or Glasgow? is it not really sad to hear of the death of Gerry Rafferty“
Its moments like those that turn a pleasant visit into a memorable one.
Once upon a time on a different universe I used to travel regularly from Bury St Edmunds to Beccles and Lowestoft on the A143.
Somewhere in my subconscious I remembered passing through the villages of Rickinghall (Rickinghall Superior, Rickinghall Inferior) and Botesdale a long time before they were bypassed, although I was unaware at the time they were two separate entities in their own historical right as they just flow one into the other as you pass them by.
When we had the opportunity to stop and stare I made the same mistake filing all the snaps taken under Botesdale.
Perhaps the lesson is Google before you go not after or pay more attention during your visit.
Botesdale Village Sign showing:
The Mill, there were six at one time unfortunately none of them have survived
The coach and horses, they used stop at The Crown Inn (closed since around 1920) when it was on a main coaching route
St Botolph, patron saint of wayfarers, he died in 680 and his remains where divided in three, the head taken to Ely, the middle to Thorney, and the remainder Westminster Abbey.
How do you connect a grisly murder in 1819 with the musical band The Howl and The Hum and an Irish Architect who came to build a prison but ended up building an iconic bridge across the Mill Stream of the Great River Ouse in 1827.
Godmanchester in Huntingdonshire
In the church yard of St Mary the Virgin lies the last resting place of Mary Anne Weems who was murdered by her husband at the age of 21 in 1819, the story of her demise and the fate of her husband is well documented, below is an example of just two:
James Gallier, designed and constructed the iconic Chinese Bridge which crosses the Mill Stream of the Great River Ouse in 1827. He was born James Gallagher in Ireland in July 1798, in a lot of respects his life was tinged with sadness, he died along with his second wife in a hurricane in October 1866 while traveling between New Orleans and New York on the Paddle Steamer the Evening Star it sank in the storm. This is an interesting story in its own right.
It was a rather cloudy start to the day but we thought it was about time to make an other attempt to find and visit St Michael the Archangel Church, Booton in Norfolk.
This time I took all the precautions I could think of and programmed the satellite navigation carefully entering GPS coordinates .
I thought this would be a full proof approach as the last time we just headed out and hoped for the best that it would be all plain sailing with a good sense of direction and a little logic.
Now it all went wrong this time around 3 miles from our destination where we encountered a large red notice advising that the road ahead was closed and to follow the diversion signs, so off we went but between the Sat Nav and the yellow diversion signs we found our selves going around in what appeared to be ever decreasing circles. As we entered Reepham for the hundredth time I thought we should not take the Bruce’s advice and try again but rather than give up head for St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Salle.
Now to get to St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Salle you do not need GPS as the tower is visible as you leave Reepham. It is a church of superlatives and it never disappoints there is even a tradition that Anne Boylan was buried in the church after she has been beheaded at the Tower of London and secretly exhumed from St Peter ad Vincula chapel London.
AND YES we will try and visit St Michael the Archangel Church, Booton an other day!
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
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.
“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.