Monday, 26 October 2015

Raymond Sheppard and Round Tower Churches - Burgh Castle Church

Norfolk has 123 standing round tower churches (most in the South east of the county), Suffolk 38, Essex 6, Cambridge 2, Sussex 3, and Berkshire 2. Kent, Surrey and Orkney have one each which have either disappeared or are in a ruinous state. So "it is clear that the greatest concentration of round-towered churches is in the south east Norfolk" and the north east corner of Suffolk (Ashwin, 2005). Heywood, the author of the chapter on round-towered churches, goes on to explain "this convergence towards the valleys of the Rivers Yare and Waveney simply reflects a greater population of the area during the early Middle Ages (p.60). If you want to know more consult the many sources on the Internet (or books - love a library!) mentioned below.

Burgh Castle Church by Raymond Sheppard

Christine  Sheppard, in kindly sharing the paintings and drawings that her father did of round tower churches, presented me with a mystery, and she should know me better than to think I'd not give it a go!

Taken from as near as I could (my wife holds the reproduction we took with us)

I'm falling in love with flint!

St Peter and St Paul Burgh Castle was not difficult to find. As two drawings were in this area it seemed likely the mystery "East Anglian" church - as it had been labelled - was here nearby. The tower here is 50 feet and inside the church appears flat walled and the thickness of the church's walls are an apparent sign that the church was here before the tower. The nearby Roman fort is likely to have been plundered for stone to build the church. This tower is battlemented and dressed with flint as are others.

In taking the photo to emulate Sheppard's angle you'll notice that the two gravestones are now, if they weren't then, propped up and several other stones nearer the porch have now gone. If you look closely you'll see that a gravestone (see below) has now had a substantial tree grow up in front of it to block Sheppard's view if he were drawing this today!

Trees grow where they will!

Lastly we will look at a mysterious wooden building and a mill in the next episode of our journey in Norfolk and Suffolk!

  1. Heywood, Stephen, Round-Towered Churches, pp.29-30 in Ashwin, Trevor and Alan Davison (eds.)(2005), An historical atlas of Norfolk. Chichester: Phillimore & Co. Ltd.  [ISBN: 1860773494])
  2. Goode, W. J 1994, Round tower churches of South East England  Round Tower Church Society  [ISBN: 0952305801

Monday, 19 October 2015

Raymond Sheppard and Round Tower Churches - Herringfleet St. Margaret's

Herringfleet Church
Norman's attempt to copy Sheppard!

The second church I want to focus on in our tour of the Norfolk-Suffolk border is Herringfleet St Margaret's. It was hard to find as no signposts wanted to help us and our satnav was confused at this point. But determination paid off.

The church's tower is 47 feet high and as you can see from my photos below, is circular to the parapet and has no battlements or stair turret. Apparently the way the flint is laid in the tower helps date the church tower to the late Saxon period.  I read that the bells in the tower are dated 1611 and 1837. The unusual aspect - found in a few Norfolk/Suffolk churches - is that the roof and chancel are thatched and unfortunately I arrived on a day when some blue plastic was placed in the thatch!

Herringfleet Church form the west
Taken to show some the gravestones Sheppard included

...and again a major stone featured in Sheppard's illustration

For the third part of our journey we visit two mystery drawings and hopefully solve them!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Raymond Sheppard and Round Tower Churches - Haddiscoe

Haddiscoe Church from Beccles Road [65+ years ago!]

Close but impossible to replicate!

I am lucky to be able to visit other libraries (we Librarians love comparing notes!) and a couple of years ago I visited the Norwich Cathedral Library and just by chance saw a note which said four one day tours were being organised by Jack Sterry, around the "Round tower churches in Mid Norfolk, North Norfolk and Suffolk". It was the first time I heard the expression 'round tower churches'. I remember that Raymond Sheppard had drawn a few in the area and filed that away to do further research.

Haddiscoe Church from Loddon Road
Haddiscoe Church from Loddon Road

In August this year my wife and I took a holiday in Wroxham on the Norfolk Broads. On our way there we decided to do some exploring. Christine Sheppard, (Raymond Sheppard's daughter) had kindly shared some of her father's church paintings and having never heard of round tower churches, let alone seen one, I was very curious and thankfully so was my ever patient wife!

We travelled through Essex, Suffolk and across the border into Norfolk, and found the first Haddiscoe, St. Mary  The tower is 52 feet tall and appears to be a Norman tower done in a Saxon manner. The three 'string courses' are very rare in round towers and the stone apparently comes from Caen in France thus adding to the reason it's thought to be Norman. We arrived on a very hot day and walked around the graveyard and found it 'unkempt'. But we soon realised that this was in order to encourage wildlife.

Haddiscoe Church (south side porch)
Now I'm not a fanatic but I wanted to replicate Raymond Sheppard's positions when he drew and painted the churches he visited, but there's a problem. We think he drew these pictures in the early 1950s and that's <gulp> 60 years ago! Nature loves to take over places and man tries to subdue it. The two pictures above show my problem, but even allowing for movable topography I think Sheppard took some artistic license. Anyway, here goes....

The first drawing above is impossible to replicate today due to a lot of undergrowth, and I suspect the road that Sheppard used is too busy to try and the view is obscured. The second one shown above is a bit easier - but still not quite right.

Haddiscoe Church from the East
The nearest I could get to the east!

The last picture Christine Sheppard kindly shared was a pencil drawing of a window which I think I have captured here

Haddiscoe Church window sketch
Window with a visitor who didn't want to leave!

Outside Haddiscoe Church - window on left

In our next enthralling episode....Herringfleet