A Tale of (at least two) Norfolks

There are some fine medieval churches in the Brecklands and two were visited today, St George at Saham Toney and All Saints at Threxton. It’s a pleasant walk between the two and the bells of St George can be heard all the way. The traveling library does not include the relevant Pevsner so the detail of the churches will have to wait for further research.

That is a lovely south facing porch, but I do not like the finger wagging discipline of that clock. The earlier rhythms of life replaced by the industrialisation of life (see EP Thompson).

Nor does the traveling library include ‘Bread or Blood’ by AJ Peacock, but these can be consulted later. The detail of Pevsner is needed for the churches, but the broad sweep of Peacock can be remembered. The book is about the impact of the enclosures in East Anglia and well worth a read. Of how the local gentry, the squires, the solicitors, the richer clergy and others banded together to take the commons and the wastes for themselves. The farm labourers, the cottagers and squatters might get a few coin, quickly drunk away – what else could be done with it? – or they might get chased away from the newly fenced in fields with blows and curses. People fought back, but it was an instinctive inchoate rebellion, aware of the wrong, but not able to properly resist. The legacy of those enclosures helps to explain the field pattern that is seen today. And do they explain the thick hedges, or were these old drove roads and the hedges were here to stop the cattle and sheep from straying?

Land is still enclosed, not free, and if the land isn’t free, how can the people think they are?

 

 

 

 

The fence clearly separates two distinct fields. The one in the foreground is interesting not just as a field, but because it was once the site of an excavation by a team of archeologists. Perhaps in the 1970s? The river was dredged and we spent hours pouring over the mud, finding all sorts of things. A relic from a sabre tooth tiger, bones, bits of metal, some fossils. There was a major Romano-British settlement in the area, but also something earlier. It’s perhaps twelve miles or so to Grimes Graves and there are neolithic barrows in the area. The ridges and furrows above are hints of something which would be fascinating to explore in more detail. But the field on the other side of the fence is also interesting because it looks as if that might be a large barrow. And if it is, then is the same shaped hill on the other side also a barrow?

And this is one of my favourite places. It has a magical quality and exerts some strange hidden power. Was this a place of dreamtime for the settlements of 5,000 years ago?

The landscape is wilder than the surrounding fields, but not as it would have been in that time, nor of the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. But it does not really feel of now, and that’s perhaps one of the reasons that makes it special. I doubt the full relationship between people and land and landscape is properly understood or what the emotional responses generated might represent. But I love this and all the way back I pondered about the societies which one lived here and how little are understood about them; not just their ‘way of life’ but even more intriguing, what they thought.

All Saints Church at Threxton.

And just by chance, while browsing through the British Library Newspaper Archive, I found this, from the Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 13 June 1778:

And this from the Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 16 September, 1797.