Tag Archives: Wimer


I have been on holiday this week, mostly to celebrate the close of the shooting season and the consequent opening of the archaeology season (Yay! The Glorious 2nd!). Not, to be fair, that I have lacked archaeology over this winter. Anyway, Saturday – the last day of the shoot – was a glorious day, and I decided to get well out of the way, and visit Framlingham and Orford castles.

Orford I have visited several times whilst researching Wimer, but I have been sniffy about Framlingham, because what remains is later than I’ve been interested in. However, the Wimer sequel is in the right timeframe, so I decided to go along; then to drive from Framlingham to Orford, a direct trip I haven’t made before.

Visiting Framlingham was useful for scale, and for viewpoints. The encircling ditches were never filled with water, being a dry route for soldiers to move unseen around the perimeter; I wouldn’t have known that without visiting. Also, the River Ore forms a large mere on the North side – I think that was a conceit of the Howards, centuries later, but when I was there the whole river valley was flooded; I think, in the same weather conditions, it would have been just as defensive in 1216, when John attacked the castle. They surrendered after two days – Roger Bigod was away; I bet he swore!

FramlinghamI am left with a puzzle, though. Henry II had Hugh Bigod’s motte and bailey at Framlingham destroyed, after the Young King rebellions in the 1170s. However, the English Heritage people were insistent that the stone chimneys visible in the curtain wall of the 13th C castle were remnants of the earlier castle – in fact, of the Lord’s chambers. How, if the motte was demolished? There’s no sign of it now.

They also suggested that the castle’s orientation has flipped 180 degrees, with Hugh’s castle oriented South, and his son Roger’s, to the North. Here’s a sketch, using Google Maps.

There were some interesting facts on how the castle was provisioned; in 1386 the dovecote produced 431 pigeons, and there were a team of falconers employed to fish from the mere!

I also loved the drive between Fram and Orford, through Parham, Campsea Ashe, and Tunstall. I indulged my church bent, and went into them all 🙂 Something I hadn’t realised is that the route runs alongside the River Ore – now not much more than a stream, but was it bigger then? Even navigable, or suitable for poling a boat up? The other major impression was how dark and huge Tunstall Forest is, even now. The river route might have been much safer!

Finally I had a nice visit with my favourite castle in the world, Orford. I had Wimer’s chapel to myself in the evening sunshine, and it was such a pleasant place to sit and write. I remembered to count this time; there were 12 seats in the chapel, another numerological reference! And I confirmed another hunch – Wimer’s bedroom is the only one in the castle with a private loo, he really did have a thing about them 😀

A most enjoyable outing.


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Filed under Henry, History, Wimer

Silver linings and Maryan shrines…

Thinking silver linings – I had to drop off a bunch of papers at my solicitor’s a couple of days ago. I had a little free time, and was going to walk in to town and see if I could find a second-hand sheepskin rug (for knapping purposes..). However, right opposite the solicitor’s offices was a little church, with a sign outside saying “Come in and see our historic church”. Well, I am a complete sucker for historic churches, so I did; and what a nice surprise it turned out to be!

Firstly, the main door once through the porch is super – solidly Norman, no less, with some really nice decoration. I spent several minutes admiring that alone 🙂 It claims to be the oldest door in Ipswich – I’m a little suspicious about that, but it is an excellent example.

Then I wandered into the body of the church itself. This is mostly Victorian tat – except for the ORIGINAL statue of Mary and Jesus, that formed the centrepiece of the large Maryan cult in Ipswich in the middle ages! I’ve known about a small reproduction of the statue for a long time. It’s at the entrance to Lady Lane (a couple of hundred yards uphill from my newly favourite church); but finding the real statue here was completely unexpected! I have a very soft spot for this statue, as Mary is cuddling Jesus on an unusual side – which happens to be the same side as Wimer’s Mary is, on the arms of my St Mary of the Alder Grove. Incidentally, there’s a faintly strange cup-like arrangement carved underneath one of Jesus’ feet – if you go, I’d love to know its purpose? It is still a shrine, which I also appreciated. I had to carefully squeeze past the votive candles to admire the statue properly.

As always, I hunted for a historical leaflet; I have actually been known to pay for these 😛 None visible. Finally, on some display boards opposite the door but turned away from the line of march, was the potted history I was looking for; and it turns out that the Augustinian Priory of Holy Trinity in Ipswich was this church’s mother house! So Wimer might have known it himself; and the Holy Trinity Prior, one of my baddies in the Wimer sequel, certainly would have. How cool is that!

Lastly, the bell tower proved worth a glance – if a bit of a sniffy one, because it’s brick, and I was by now firmly back in the 12thC! Good brick, though; early; and with an English bond, and nice diapering. Best view is round the back, which also lets you admire the rather fine timbered houses behind the church.

I would definitely recommend a look around, if you’re in Elm Street – that’s where the police station is, in Ipswich, and just down from the Wolsey Theatre car park. Hey – Cardinal Wolsey would have known the church too! 😀

Its website is just as discreet as the church is! http://www.stmaryattheelms.org.uk/st_mary_at_the_elms/Home_Page.html


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