Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gainsborough's House Mulberry Patrons visit Sudbury silkmakers.

Important clients for Sudbury silk!
Many people outside East Anglia do not realise that Sudbury is the largest silkmaking town in Britain.  The industry started in the 18th century, and there are still three working silk companies in the town.  these produce specialist high quality product for designers and their clients worldwide.  Of course competition from China is strong, and the high level of the pound is currently making life more difficult for Sudbury companies, but the bespoke service and the products' niche at the top end of the market means that they continue to thrive.

On Friday afternoon the Mulberry Patrons of Gainsborough's House enjoyed a special visit to two of the companies.  First we went to Gainsborough Silks, who specialise in furniture textiles.  We were fascinated to see how silk continues to be made by the old methods, using cardboard 'jacquard cards' to create the patterns.  Some wonderful fabrics were on display, as were some fairly antique machines in addition to more modern, computer aided equipment.

A Patron admires the finished product at Gainsborough Silk
Then we went on to Vanners, next door neighbours to Gainsborough's House, in Weavers Lane.  As can be seen from the pictures below they specialise in  silks for clothing and in particular for ties.  They use computer aided design and production methods more extensively than Gainsborough Silk and the contrast between the two companies was very interesting.  It seems that there is still room for the successful use of  both old and new methods in this high end niche industry.
Silk for ties at Vanners

Silks fresh from the dying process

After the visit to the factories the Patrons enjoyed a cup of tea in the Gainsborough's House Library (with scones and mulberry jam) and then had the opportunity to view the exciting new autumn exhibition The Painting Room. This was written up in last weekend's Daily Telegraph Review  as exhibition of the week.  I will be writing about the show, which runs until January, in the weeks to come.

Gainsborough's House Mulberry Patrons are a valuable source of support to the museum.  They enjoy a special relationship with the House's activities plus a programme of exclusive visits to hidden attractions country wide.  Of course they can also freely participate in other programmes for supporters and Friends.  If you are interested in joining this growing group please contact Gainsborough's House on 01787 372958

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Preston 'Christkindmarkt'

The Friends of the Church of Preston St Mary will be holding their 18th ‘Christkindmarkt’ on Saturday November 14th between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

This year the venue of the ‘Markt’ has changed, and it will be held at Preston Manor Barn (postcode CO10 9LU) by kind invitation of Tim and Ann Coxon.

The Preston ‘ Christkindmarkt’ is a very popular seasonal event featuring traditional stalls.  In addition to lots of gift purchasing opportunities, there will be the chance to purchase Gisela Graham designer Christmas Decorations at reduced prices.

Refreshments will be available including hot gluwein, in keeping with the northern European atmosphere of the event.

Admission is £3, which includes entry to a prize draw.  All proceeds will go towards maintenance of the fabric of Preston's historic Suffolk church.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Branchlines update

News from Old School Wood, Great Waldingfield's community woodland.

Courtesy of Branchlines Chairman David Taylor.

'Thank you to all who supported the AGM on Friday 16th. There was an excellent talk by Adrian Walters on history and conservation on the Sudbury riverside, where he works as Sudbury Common Lands Ranger. The AGM business followed; no major news to report although we welcomed Amy Ward on to the committee. Amy is at Otley College studying wildlife management and conservation.
This month's working party at Old School Wood saw George Millins bring his motor scythe to cut the meadow and some of the ride margins. We deliberately leave a section uncut each year, on rotation, for the benefit of small creatures. 7 adults and 3 children were on hand to rake up the cut grass and make a giant habitat pile; the 3 children were then on hand to play on it! Thanks to all involved.

Work over the autumn and winter is expected to include hedge coppicing, checking tree stakes and guards, possible replacement tree planting and habitat building.

We now have a new padlock on the main gate after the old one became unreliable.

Next event; working party Saturday 28th November 09.30 -12.30 at the wood.'

Friday, October 23, 2015

Lavenham Library tomorrow

I will be in Lavenham Library from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. tomorrow if anyone has any issues they want to discuss with me concerning the County Council, or anything else.


Sewing project in Semer

D.P. Mortlock in his Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches (Volume 2) describes the setting of Semer Church as 'captivating', and indeed so it was on Tuesday morning when I went along to take a look at the new kneelers that were officially dedicated in September.

Many residents have created their own needlepoint pew cushion, which have to be protected with plastic covers because of the bats.  On each is a picture of their home, or something reflecting their occupation.  People marrying in the church can also create or sponsor their own cushion.  Examples of all three types are shown below.

In addition to the pew cushions the altar cloths have also been reworked, and a fine fleur de lys kneeler created for the altar rail.

The Church, which is worth a visit in itself, was heavily and extensively restored in the 1870's but some traces of original 14th century features remain, notably the font and the inner doorway within the old south porch.  This was rebuilt in the nineteenth century using the original 15th century barge boards and jambs. Details of how to gain access are posted on the church door.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Latest news on relief for refugees

Thanks to all readers of the blog who took the opportunity to make donations through the collection initiative made by residents of Monks Eleigh.

I understand from Kathy Haddow, one of the organisers, that blog readers responded not just with donations but also with help in sorting out the clothes etc.  Although the hall was only available for a week a good quantity of warm clothing and bedding was collected from generous donors.

The donations went to the Red Cross who will raise funds from selling some of the clothing (all money to go to Syria).  The organisation has also be meeting refugees at ports and airports,  kitting them out, and giving them vouchers to use in Red Cross shops.

Apparently some charities are not taking donations of clothing etc but I understand that the Red Cross is continuing to welcome such items.  It is therefore not too late if you have something to offer!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

 Taking the dog for a walk in London this weekend I was amused to see the sign above.

National Grid are currently replacing some 350 miles of obsolete gas main under the capital. This is causing a good deal of disruption to traffic.  It is clear that, as in Suffolk, local residents are not always convinced that the organisation of the project is as good as it should be.  It seems to people that works are often abandoned by workmen for an excessively long time.With its notice  National Grid is obviously trying to pre-empt complaints about this.  I wonder if it has any effect? Or if, indeed, whether improvements could in fact be made.

On my walk I was, as always, amazed at the wide variety of things of interest that one passes in London in the course of a brief excursion.  In addition to the reminder of highways headache in Gresham Street, I passed the wonderful Watts Memorial in Postman's Park (part of which is pictured above). We also took in the memorial to Heminge and Condell, who collected Shakespeare's plays for publication after his death, some strange seats that look like extracted teeth, and a fine cherubic angel above the door of St Anne and St Agnes, the Lutheran Church.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Branchlines AGM this Friday

Sudbury Water Meadows, a chance to learn more.
Branchlines, the organisation that created and now looks after the Old School Wood Community Woodland in Great Waldingfield, is holding its Annual General Meeting in Great Waldingfield village hall at 7 p.m. this Friday, 16th October.

All are welcome to attend and the added attraction this year is the opportunity to hear Adrian Walters, who is the Ranger for the Sudbury Common Lands Charity, speak about the History and Conservation of the Sudbury Riverside.  Given the unique nature of our riverside in Sudbury this should be a most interesting presentation.

After the talk all are welcome to stay to hear about the plans that the committee have for the community woodland in the year to come.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Angel Roofs of East Anglia, a review

Angel from Bury St Edmunds

 I am grateful to Andy Sheppard for sharing with readers of the blog his review of Michael Rimmer's recently published book, The Angel Roofs of East Anglia.

This book is a must for anyone interested in the wonderful ecclesiastical heritage that we enjoy in this part of the world! 

Copies of the book can be purchased from the Lutterworth Press in Cambridge. Tel:01223 350865 or e mail: 


Andy writes:-

As a representative of Little Waldingfield History Society I was offered the chance to review this book (by Michael Rimmer), which the publisher’s accompanying letter advised was “the first detailed historical and photographic study of the region’s many medieval angel roofs”. Knowing nothing of this subject but loving the architecture of old buildings and particularly of old wooden roofs, my interest was naturally aroused.

The associated material also included an estimate that “over 90% of England’s figurative medieval art was obliterated in the image destruction of the Reformation”. It then went on to say that “angel roof carvings comprise the largest surviving body of major English medieval wood sculpture” and that “although masterpieces of sculpture and engineering, angel roofs have been almost completely neglected by academics and art historians”. At this point in the narrative I was hooked and most eager to review the book for myself.

I am delighted to advise that Angel Roofs of East Anglia does not disappoint; the beautiful photographs of the roofs and close ups of individual angels, all of which were taken by the author, are simply stunning; equally, the skill and artistry demonstrated in the composition, exposure and overall photographic layout is nothing short of a tour de force. I am certainly going to use the book as a reference for visiting as many of the regions angel roof churches as I can over the next few years, in order to see for myself these incredible unseen and beautiful masterpieces of the middle ages.

There is however more to the book than just a collection of magnificent photographs; I particularly appreciated the second appendix, where the author presents six black and white images of varying architectural roof types with annotated names for all of the major component parts thereof. This is simple when you know but impossible otherwise; I was aware of the major roof styles, including “tie beam with arch braces”, ‘single hammer beam’ and ‘double hammer beam’, but ‘false double hammer beam’ was completely new to me and quite astonishingly wonderful.

Thirty-six churches feature in the book, each with a good deal of historical narrative to accompany the mostly full-page photos of their glorious angel roofs. Quite deliberately and properly, each church features as a double page spread, whilst happily some of the more magnificently decorated churches feature over four or even six pages. Together this section comprises about 70% of the book and will be the part to which reference is likely to be made again and again, as I intend to do - readers won’t be disappointed.

Although less likely to be read over and over, Michael Rimmer correctly begins with a historical consideration of angel roofs, which includes, for example:
§  What they are?
The author believes angel roofs are “some of the most impressive and complex examples of English structural and decorative woodworking that attain an outstanding level of skill and sophistication”, and I for one most certainly agree such sentiments.
§  Why they matter?
The reader is advised there are an estimated 9,000 medieval churches in England and that only about 170 angel roofs survive in England and Wales, with nearly 70% in East Anglia.
§  Why most such roofs are in East Anglia?
I won’t spoil the surprise by telling readers Michael Rimmer’s theories, just that I agree with his clear, detailed and logical analysis.
§  When they were constructed?
Over a surprisingly short time span of roughly 140 years from 1395.

At around 130 pages and 10 inches by 7.5 inches this paperback book is priced about right at £19.95, primarily because of the many wonderfully glorious and simply astonishing images he has created; however, all royalties from book sales will be donated to The Churches Conservation Trust, which is also a nice touch. It’s a shame the book is not available in hardback form, which I personally would prefer, though I understand the cost implication why not; however, slinging a copy in the back of a car for reference when visiting churches could easily damage paperback covers and possibly the book itself.

All in all a fascinating book that will readily appeal to lovers of old churches, of wooden architecture or of English history; separately, casual readers may well also become hooked on the subject and want to see some angel roofs for themselves, as I most certainly do. I recommend the book as the ideal Christmas or birthday present for anyone with the aforementioned interests - they are likely to be both astonished and delighted.

Angel Roof at St Mary's Church, Bury St Edmunds.