Holy Trinity Church, Bungay

It is rare of me to dedicate an entire post to a single church; nevertheless, having learned of the interests of a colleague of mine, Bob Mitchell, in (Saxon) round tower churches, I figured that this post would be a perfect way to show some appreciation to a fellow history enthusiast. Namely, this old church in Bungay was the first place for me to visit after learning a bit about round towers carrying a special meaning (even if this meaning is under debate).

I’ll let the intrepid explorer discover more about round tower churches themselves while I mention a few things about the Holy Trinity at Bungay.

The round tower

Interesting stories about this church include that the time when nearly the entirety of the market town of Bungay burned in the fire of 1688, this church was where the ‘the Fire was Stayed’. The church also escaped the Black Dog Incident of 1577 which was quite damaging to some of its neighbours.

A word on the round tower itself will potentially place it to the early Norman times though round towers could also originate during the Anglo-Saxon kingdom. My colleague’s site notes a probable Saxon origin, but I’ll cautiously point out that the plaques near the church itself only point out that possibility and remain vague.

The one bit of information to append is that the octagonal expansion of the upper tower is definitely more recent, but in a way it suits the original. It’s not much to consider how the resident priests here may have looked out at the trying times that Bungay passed through in its long history, no matter the style in which the topmost layers of the tower are built.

Bungay Priory

Finally a place with a story or two to tell though mostly because of the tragedies that have struck Bungay in times past. Yet, are ever the stories people remember different? As Tolkien wrote:

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”

Hence, the stories associated with this place: firstly, on August 4th, 1577, a massive thunderstorm struck Bungay. During this storm, a black dog appeared in the church and two men were killed immediately with others wounded. An apparition of the devil? Mayhaps…

The second story is perhaps a bit more helpful as it tells of how the Church of St Mary (the former Priory) was alighted by “helpful” people during the Great Fire of 1688 when local people were dragging their furniture into the place while trying to save their belongings. Didn’t go all that well, clearly.

A look towards the former Priory and the new adjoining St Mary’s Church

I liked this place; the ruins on the ground were such a clear indication of the past and all that has gone before while the adjoining modern structure was a wonderfully refreshing look into the present and all that has happened since.

So, while some might say that this many posts on Bungay are superfluous, I am less certain. This place has some charm, and is indeed quite special in what it offers: there’s military history, there’s cultural history. Also, as we are in Norfolk, there’s the sense that this place was so much more though indeed I am not an expert in the Waveney and how it has evolved over the years, but it must have looked so different to allow Bungay access to the sea — which was still the case not too long ago. But, times change…

And where do you lead?..

Bigod Castle

I think Bigod Castle could be wonderful. Regrettably, I could not explore the inner courtyards as, predictably, when I visited, it was closed. Don’t visit on a November’s Sunday…

Either way, I did my best to trace a path around the castle to see what shows up. That again is not as easy as in some other places, as Bungay has grown quite close to the castle and access is limited. Furthermore, the Sunday visitation also meant that the Castle Link, connecting Bigod Castle to the Waveney and further, was also closed. This clearly makes no sense (why close a public footpath?), but one’s options at this point were limited.

View inwards from the outer courtyard

Bigod looked interesting and it certainly played a part in history. Signs in the city pointed towards a rivalry with the nearby Mettingham but I am not absolutely certain about this detail. It would make sense, and Mettingham was owned by a different family.

Other than this bit, common knowledge is that Roger Bigod was the first lord of this keep though the modern structure derives from a different Roger, this time from the latter part of the 13th century, as the descendants of the original one sided with the wrong people in a revolt to the end of the 12th century and their home got demolished. The 13th century Roger was similarly disingenuous and after his death the castle slowly fell into disrepair.

None of this is admittedly particularly interesting despite the historical facts — where are the inspiring stories, and where are the important details? My only reply at this time is that I know nothing more about this site, though if I can think of anything — or visit again — I’ll let you know.

Denton Castle

When one goes to investigate a place which no longer exists, the sense of self must be strong and rooted in the present. It would be so easy to concoct a story that reaches through millennia but grasps at all of the wrong branches and leads one in the wrong way. Or, at least, that is what I find: whatever we imagine in a place which used to exist, this should be as grounded in the reality of then as now. Could Denton have been the Norwich of today if things had been different? Who knows…

It is an interesting site and an absolute pain to get to: I found the best set of instructions on the Gatehouse site, but essentially one should park by the Darrow Green Farm and cross the field to the visible enclosure of trees. There are no National Trust signs or directions, or at least, there were none when I visited in November 2017, and one is easily liable to drive too far. Either way, making one’s way across the fields to this site is an interesting moment as the scope of the castle is not visible until the very last moments of the journey.

Naturally, nothing other than the earthworks remains at this point. The motte and bailey structure is heavily forested, which has perhaps helped its survival, but either way it is a beautiful place. Regrettably, the absence of National Trust signage also means there is no information locally about the castle, its owners, or conjecture into its usage.

The lack of this information can be appreciated for the main site, even, as the information is available online after a few quick searches. What is less available are ideas on the origin and sense of some of the other features at the site: there are two mounds of very minor stature, which can be — perhaps — identified by the descriptions at the Gatehouse site, but as it gives no distances, this cannot be confirmed. One of these two is illustrated here:

Remains of something at Denton Castle

Moving on to the castle structure itself, perhaps the best sense of the motte is given by the below:

The motte at Denton Castle

This is taken from a higher vantage point within the bailey, looking inwards to the motte area. The ditch from this side was about a metre deep, and moving on to the motte, perhaps twice that. Additionally, the outer wall of the bailey was easily traceable throughout its border making this site a very good example of theoretical motte and bailey construction — theoretical, as no masonry has survived.

Overall, these thoughts summarise my opinions on this castle, interesting as it is. I really do wish more happened at this site; as it is right now, I doubt it gets many visitors and though the local people might not appreciate the increased numbers of people on their roads, there’s a sense of history at this site which I feel more people should acquaint themselves with.

Cabo da Boa Esperança

Ele dobra o Cabo da Boa Esperança.
He is rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
— Portuguese proverb

The Cabo das Tormentas, or Cape of Storms, as it was originally known after being named by Bartolomeu Dias was a monumental place for Europeans, and especially the Portuguese. But, before delving further into this story, I will note that I am not a linguist of the language nor do I have that good a sense of their culture or life — I am, quite simply, a master of conjecture. And, my mastery could be entirely misled. 🙂

The meaning of this phrase is something I’ll return to before espousing this wild conjecture I have in my mind. Namely, it signifies that the person in question is in the final phase of their life and that nothing else of significance will happen for them.

João II, o Príncipe Perfeito, decided to rename the cape from the Cape of Storms to that of Good Hope — his reaction, no doubt, signifying that for him the passing of the cape was the signal of divine providence he had hoped and looked for. He had been financing journeys to the distant lands for a long time, hoping to hear that the ships made progress towards India and yet thus far, all they had been able to do was to make their way further south. Yet, where they really had to go was north. This cape provided the first base after which they were likely to move further north, and hence this was a sign.

The rounding of the very same cape, therefore, was one of the most important moments ever. Who could guess that another few thousand kilometres remained before their carracks could reach the Malabar coast, and who could even guess what sort of difficulties they would find when they got there. Fortunately, when that time came they were up to the challenge as they had men of sufficient quality to lead in those troubled times.

So, my conjecture: what seemed to be an easy task would be such in the eye of the person in the old country. For them, the rounding of the cape made for that final stretch, even if unknowingly the stretch could take twenty years to conquer and be a few thousand kilometres long. They were *almost* there. And, with that mentality, the rounding of the cape was defining moment.

And, as such, it has remained in the language even though history shows otherwise for the country as a whole.

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam. The name had been in my mind for a long while by the time I got around to visiting this place. I think the first time for me to come across it was as a map for Stronghold (could be this one but I am not certain, the date looks too recent), and the name stuck with me. It was never there in the forefront, but it was always somewhere in the background.

Hence, when I was wondering what to do with a day in Brighton while my friends were at work and one of them mentioned that Bodiam Castle was nearby, the solution was obvious: go there and check the place out.

Truly, it looks like what a castle is when people mean the word:

Bodiam Castle, look from the rear

A large moat surrounding a multi-towered keep; round towers in the corners and square ones in the centre of the wall with the main gatehouse in the front along with a barbican (not visible on the image above).

I greatly appreciated the way in which the present setup allows people to approach from all sides and to make up their mind about the place on the way there. It was kind of fitting, though one of the things I did not like was that the bridge across the moat had been changed from where it used to be located to a more frontal, direct, approach into the gatehouse.

Bodiam Castle, look from the front

The imposing external nature of the castle is very clear from these images — even if, as the National Trust guides are keen to tell a visitor today, modern research (and not only modern, but originating in the Victorian times) is gradually re-evaluating the role of castles as defensive structures. My introduction into this topic was through Robert Liddiard‘s ‘Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism and Landscape, 1066-1500’, which was the first work that introduced me to the idea that nobles could have used these strongholds as a sign of belonging to the old boys’ club by building obvious defects into the structure. The local peasants, of course, would not have had a clue that the place is poorly defended by its imposing nature.

I am not certain, however, whether the inside isn’t more spectacular, especially taking into account what I’ve highlighted above regarding the potential for what these castles were for. The place is, in general, very well preserved — perhaps more so considering it’s been derelict since the late 17th century even though built only in the late 14th (finished in 1385), by sir Edward Dallingridge (Dalyngrigge).

One of the minor facts which I picked up at the site related to one of the people sir Edward fought alongside in the Hundred Years’ War, sir Robert Knolles. Apparently, sir Robert was so poorly appreciated by the French peasants (for his methods at extracting loot) so that when they heard of his approach to their villages, they would burn the village themselves and either run to the forests or drown themselves in rivers as being caught by sir Robert was a worse fate.

These bits of history, facts with which the National Trust employees at the site are very happy to part with, make Bodiam a treasure to visit, much like the Hermitage though there one’s conjure the narration of the stories from the placards at the site.

Pevensey Castle (Norman)

The Norman keep, located within a larger Roman-era settlement, is another one of the places which I managed to visit at a very poor time. Namely, as I described in the article that dealt with the outlying Roman structures here, English Heritage had kindly closed the castle for exactly when I was visiting. Oh well, for me this meant that I did some off-roading. Firstly, the only good photo I got of the towers in by the gatehouse:

Pevensey Castle

So, I got to walk around the two flanks of the castle shown on the photo here, go up the drawbridge to the closed gate, snap a quick photo through there, and then wander around the fort for the rest of my time in this place. What I noted, however, was that a track led through to the left of the drawbridge (exiting the castle) and I followed it down and through the ditch.

This carefully executed manoeuvre allowed me to observe some of the areas restricted for normal access although the view didn’t really expand on what can be found inside this place. Yet, the seaward wall in itself, in that state of disrepair it finds itself, was quite an interesting sight.

Seaward wall

And literally none of that interest comes through here, nor does the sense of height from the bottom of the ditch around the motte. Yet, perhaps, this did instil in me the sense which I did not have thus far for most motte and bailey type castles where I had not always considered necessary to circumambulate the structure in question. It is pretty obvious that walking around a place should expand one’s understanding of it, but this was definitely helpful here where so much of what was actually present was out of my range.

Anderitum, Litus Saxonicum

I’ll start with an admission that I spent far less time here than one could have. Not only was the English Heritage owned and operated central Norman keep (to the right of the view here) closed due to winter (or mid-week winter?), but my attempts to think about this place were mostly confined to crossing this expanse and then investigating the aforementioned keep in more detail.

Why? Because I hadn’t done my research! If I had known that Anderitum had a glorious history as, to begin with, one of the Saxon Shore forts, and only later ended up as the centre of the (Anglo-)Norman culture, I might have paid more attention to things I (probably) missed or, at least, didn’t explore as fully as I should have.

An inside view to Anderitum

As it was, the few things I noted inside this building was that one of the gates was called ‘the Roman West Gate’ and that there was a cannon emplacement from the Civil War period. Both of these I explored in some detail, but perhaps without the historical context which makes these places all the more visit-worthy.

And, yet, the sense from this place was very similar immediately to another Saxon Shore fort I have visited in the past — Gariannorum — which I have mentioned plentifully in the past. The walls looked similar and something about the general structure here made me immediately think of that place (also, above other Roman places such as Venta Icenorum though it would seem that Anderitum had a trading presence and indeed was more than a fort).

Overall, well worth a visit though I guess that as the millennia have left their marks, one must know which bit interests them or take the time to explore the Roman, Norman and Civil War periods in similar detail.

Scotney House (Country House)

The new house at Scotney (vis-a-vis the old one) is not the most remarkable of country houses to visit although the obvious reason to be thankful for the original owners is that we have the ruined old castle to cherish.

By design and contents, this is a fairly standard place: lots of art, especially stuff recovered from the Old House and the surrounding moat. Some of these are very unique though admittedly my interests right now are more into general architecture so I did not spend very much time investigating these relics.

Scotney House

The gardens around the main house were also quite bland (though one might suggest that in November quite a few of the English country houses do not have the most exciting gardenscapes). I was, similarly, hoping more from the walled garden but this was somehow especially empty of feeling.

Somehow my sense of this place tells me that the first thought was for Old Scotney Castle, and only after that the rest of it. So that, at present, we see a wonderful lake with its adjoining house, sights truly worthy of everything. Around these is a good pensive atmosphere with plenty of trees and walkways. The excavated quarry area which was also purpose-built is of a similarly interesting nature — or is it just the prevalence of plants in this part of the estate?

The Quarry

Maybe that’s the way about it, and I was expecting to see more life up by the new house? Can’t really say. Either way, even if the new house does not capture you, the old one and the estate itself will.

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