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Philip Cunningham

Coach trip to Lullingstone

On Friday 5th August, the annual CAG coach trip took us to Lullingstone, Kent, to visit the Roman Villa and the Castle. Our first stop was the villa, one of the best-preserved in Britain, originally constructed in timber circa 75AD, rebuilt in stone during the 2nd century and finally destroyed by fire in the 5th century. It has 26 rooms, but the most notable feature is the house-church, unique in Roman Britain, which contains wall-paintings giving evidence of early Christianity. Also of great interest (particularly to CAG members currently digging at Fordham) were the mosaics and the bath-house complex. Much discussion of hypocausts and drainage was heard.

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The bath-house complex and mosaics at Lullingstone Roman Villa

We then went on to Lullingstone Castle, one of those country houses which was never a castle at all, but a Tudor Manor House from circa 1497, extensively re-modelled during the reign of Queen Anne, who was a frequent visitor. Unusually, the house has been owned by the same family since it was constructed (now the 20th generation). Also in the grounds is the Tudor brick gatehouse and the 14th century church of St Botolph.

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Lullingstone Castle; the house, gatehouse and church

 

 

 

 

 

In 2000, Tom Hart-Dyke, the heir to the estate and a horticulturist, made the news when he was kidnapped in Colombia. During his nine months of captivity, he developed the idea of creating a map of the world in plants from each continent. When he was released, he returned to Lullingstone and created the World Garden of Plants in the old walled garden. It now includes the National Collection of Eucalyptus Trees. 

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Some of the exhibits in the World Garden of Plants

Trip to Mildenhall

Mildenhall 2015

On Wednesday 15th April, about 25 members and guests went over to Mildenhall in Suffolk for an afternoon trip.  We started off at the Church of All Saints, Icklingham. The village of Icklingham was originally two separate parishes and both churches remain. All Saints has been unused for over 100 years and is now maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust. Architecturally, this is unquestionably the more important building of the two, and is one of the finest examples 2015 April Mildenhall Trip  (1)of an unspoilt Suffolk Church, re-built in the C14th, although it is of Norman origin.

Thatched roofs cover the nave, chancel, the independently-gabled South aisle and the South porch. The diagonally-buttressed tower rises in three stages to a plain parapet and, unusually, adjoins the aisle rather than the nave. The basic fabric of the nave is probably late Norman, to judge by the vestiges of two small, blocked, round-headed windows still visible in the North wall.

The interior of the church is delightful, a consequence of clear glass and the fact that the building was left largely unaltered by the Victorians. The Parish Chest is damaged, but one of only seven late C13th clamp-fronted chests in Suffolk, held together entirely with wooden pegs and tenons. The font is limestone, early C14th and beautifully carved. Octagonal in  shape, with each side carrying a different tracery design. An Elizabethan alms box is on a wooden post by the main door. The nave has C15th backless benches (ouch).  Along the tops of the north and south walls of the south aisle are beautifully carved cornices. There is some excellent medieval stained glass, showing  two half-figure (saints?), with canopies above.  The 5-light East window has splendid tracery, with more carving around the niches on each side. Traces of paint here show that  the stonework would originally have been richly decorated. The rood screen is late C15th and only the lower part (dado) now survives.  The chancel floor is the most notable feature, being made up entirely of medieval glazed tiles. Their survival here is a great rarity, as medieval glazed floor-tiles did not wear well under hob-nailed boots and were largely replaced with pamments, unglazed bricks, harder stone or marble in the great rebuilding of Suffolk churches in the later Middle Ages.  Dating from around 1325, and supplied by the Benedictine Abbey at Ely, they are either plain or line-impressed, varying in shape, colour and design to form a complex mosaic. Individual motifs include two birds facing each other, a lion’s face and an earless man wearing a coronet. Some tiles are pseudo-mosaic, in that they appear to be two tiles but are in fact a single tile.

2015 April Mildenhall Trip  (12)

2015 April Mildenhall Trip  (6)

After Icklingham Church, we carried on into Mildenhall to visit the Mildenhall Museum, which  received a £423,000 Lottery grant in 2012 so that it could be extended to house its great treasure – the Anglo-Saxon Lakenheath Warrior (aka The Horse Burial).  The Museum also tells the full story of  the discovery of the Mildenhall Treasure (and a very strange story it is)  together with the history of the Town, the Fens and the Brecks. An excellent little museum in which to spend a couple of hours.

Finally we went to visit the Church of St Mary, This is the biggest church in Suffolk, almost 60m long and 20m wide, with a tower 40m high. Virtually all of it is original, hardly anything is a Victorian renovation. It is a church of other superlatives; the east window of circa 1300 is considered one of England’s best (albeit now with Victorian glass). The nave roof is possibly the finest in East Anglia. There are 10 life-size angels with long robes and curly hair, holding instruments of the passion, books or musical instruments. Their wings (which are inserted into grooves on their backs, with no other support) have been restored – in 1651 the parish had paid a man a shilling a day to deface “all symbols of superstition”, and the roof is peppered with shot. There are also some 60 smaller angels carved into the tie-beams and cornices. In the North Aisle there are extraordinary figures and beasts carved into the hammer-beams and the head of a Cromwellian soldier’s pike is still embedded in one of the figures. Each spandrel is a carved panel, depicting a mixture of biblical and domestic scenes, including a woman in a horned head-dress (supposed to typify Pride), a comic pig with an astonishing collar, demons playing an organ and a demon grasping a dog by its tail. The wall posts have canopied figures, with the canopies formed by angel’s wings. In the South Aisle , there are six wingless angels carved into the hammer-beams. The spandrels are filled with solid panelled tracery. The carving here is less ornate than the north aisle, but 164 carvings of swans and antelopes (the emblems of Henry V) survive intact.   The north porch and the tower both contain excellent examples of stone vaulting.

2015 April Mildenhall Trip  (19)

2015 April Mildenhall Trip  (18)

 

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2015 April Mildenhall Trip  (13)

 

Archaeological Course in Colchester

Colchester WEA is running a course on archaeology for ten weeks starting in January and there are still places available.  The tutor is Howard Brooks from Colchester Archaeological Trust, who is well known to CAG through his work with us on the Wormingford  Lodge Hills site and Marks Hall.  Howard is an excellent tutor with lots of experience and this course should be well worth doing.  Details are below.

Course Title: Prehistory and Roman History of Colchester
Course Description: This course looks at DNA evidence for human origins, and then at Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Age inhabitants. We will review evidence of Roman invasion and the end of Roman Britain. The final session will be a walking tour around Roman Colchester.
Tutor: Howard Brooks
Venue: Castle Methodist Church, Maidenburgh Street CO1 1TT
Day of Week: Thursdays  Time: 10:00  Duration: 2 hrs
Start Date: 08/01/2015  No. of Weeks: 10
Fee: £68
Contact Name: Dr. Roger Slade  Telephone: 01206 578527  Email: ku.oc.oohaynull@1edals.regor

The Stour Valley: A Prehistoric Landscape

The MiddleStourValley, between Bures and Wormingford has long been of interest to Colchester Archaeological Group (CAG), owing to the number and variety of cropmarks visible from the air.  These came to light largely through the aerial photography of Ida McMaster, a long-standing member of CAG, who has recently died at the age of 96. She took to the skies with her camera regularly between the early 1970s and late 1990s, and being a resident of MountBures, was particularly keen to photograph this part of the valley.

The cropmarks provide evidence of activity in the area from the early Neolithic, in the form of a long mortuary enclosure and at least one, or probably two, cursuses.  Later, Bronze Age people also used the area to bury their dead in round barrows, often clustered around or aligned on the earlier features.  CAG has been investigating the cropmarks for a number of years and has now published a booklet, ‘The Stour Valley: A Prehistoric Landscape’.  The booklet, which is 40 pages long, has a foreword by Ronald Blythe, is fully illustrated in colour and costs £5 plus p&p. It can be ordered e-mailing ten.kugacnull@seiriuqne

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 Essex from the air

 

 

Latest

‘The Stour Valley: A Prehistoric Landscape’

Sneak preview of the yet to be published CAG book . This will Cost £5 plus p&p and will be available in a few weeks time. Formal launch is planned to take place at Wormingford on the Winter Solstice: 22nd December. Sunrise watch at 8am followed by breakfast at the Crown.  Further details coming soon!

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British Museum, Wednesday 9th April

A full coach left Colchester for a visit to the British Museum to see the “Vikings – Life and Legend” exhibition.  This important show was arranged in the brand new Conservation and Exhibition Hall.  It was extremely informative with three rooms displaying artefacts from all over the Viking world, some very beautiful and finely worked. Finally you arrive at the ship hall where the Roskilde boat (what remains of it) had been brought over and reassembled.  Nothing can prepare you for just how big it really was!

Roskilde 6 at the British Museum
Roskilde 6 at the British Museum

 Flag Fen, Saturday 7th June

On a rather damp morning our coach party left Colchester and arrived at Flag fen in time to meet our guide who took us around the site pointing out things to see. A very important Bronze Age site which was initially discovered and excavated by Francis Pryor.

Amongst other things, we saw the site of the Neolithic trackway; reconstructed Bronze & Iron Age huts; remains of a Roman road; a small museum displaying a few of the many finds – several of which, it is thought, had been ritually deposited.  As Flag Fen is now a centre for the conservation of waterlogged wood it was very exciting to see the Bronze Age boats from Must Farm being treated. Members may recall we had a fascinating talk about this project last year. By this time the rain had cleared and we had time to picnic or lunch at the visitor centre, watching the antics of a little water vole!

We set off again a very soon arrived at BuckdenTowers – originally called BuckdenPalace, when the property belonged to the Bishops of Lincoln. It is now a Claretian Missionary Centre used for retreats and conferences. We split into 2 groups each with a guide. Much of what we saw was 15 cent. There is an imposing Gatehouse and a large square tower. The site was walled and moated – some of which still exists. A part of the original structure was demolished to make way for a large Victorian House. We were made very welcome and given tea and biscuits in the beautiful walled garden before setting off on our return journey home. An excellent day out!

 

Flag Fen Visitor Centre
Flag Fen Visitor Centre
The Oldest Wheel in the Country
The Oldest Wheel in the Country
Conservation of the Must Farm boats
Conservation of the Must Farm boats

 

Flag Fen; Bronze Age timber causeway
Flag Fen; Bronze Age timber causeway
Flag Fen; Bronze Age timber causeway
Flag Fen; Bronze Age timber causeway

 

 

Flag Fen; reconstructed Bronze Age roundhouse

Flag Fen; reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse

Flag Fen; reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buckden Towers

Buckden Towers

 

 

Tour of Finchingfield 4th August 2014

Spains Hall; The Stables

Spains Hall; The Stables

One of the summer events organized by John started with a Tour round Spains Hall House and Gardens by Sir Timothy and Lady Ruggles-Brise

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Spains Hall guided tour with Sir Timothy Ruggles-Brise

Spains Hall guided tour with Sir Timothy Ruggles-Brise

Trip to Bures St Mary

Bevills House FrontOn the 5th August CAG visited two of the most historic buildings in Bures St Mary – Bevills and St. Stephens Chapel.

Bevills was built around 1490 by the first Sir William Waldegrave for his eldest son George, and the house remained in the hands of the Waldegrave family until they left the area in the early eighteenth century. It was sympathetically extended around 1920 by Colonel W. Probert and is listed G2* -Pevsner describes the house as “spectacular”. By kind permission of the owner we will see the principal downstairs rooms, as well as the gardens and outbuildings.

InsideStStephensChapel1Geoffrey Probert and family gave an excellent tour of the House and grounds, followed by the Chapel. The chapel was consecrated on the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26th 1218 , by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, on the site where King Edmund was believed to have been crowned in AD 855. Sacked during the reformation, the building spent the next 400 years as a barn. Restored in the 1930s, the chapel now houses medieval tomb-chests of three members of the de Vere family, Earls of Oxford, moved here Dragon at Buresfrom Earl’s Colne Priory.

The surprise of the day was the Dragon etched into the side of the hill opposite the Chapel.

Our thanks to John for all the work organizing this popular trip (which went like clockwork) and to the Probert family for their hospitality.

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