Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

An anthology of English history

Today I was in Long Melford again, delivering Landscape East jewellery and my cards to the JM Gallery; it's right in the centre of the village's main street – a long ribbon of quaint houses, shops and pubs.

At the northern end of Long Melford is Melford Hall and park; opposite it the row of candy coloured cottages sit back behind a wide green.

At the top of the hill, near another Tudor mansion – Kentwell Hall, is the splendid church; all of Suffolk's churches are treasure houses of history but Long Melford church is one the best 'wool churches' – built when the county's landowners and merchants were rich beyond their wildest dreams from the sale of fleece, yarn and fine cloth.

I decided to stop there for a while and enjoy dipping into an anthology of English history . . .

Of course, inside the building is a conceit of what a Victorian clergyman wanted a Gothic church to be – with patterned encaustic tiles on the floor . . .

And stained glass windows of knight and ladies (made up of fragments of medieval glass that has been smashed, salvaged and restored) . . .

Does that lady on the left look familiar? Did John Tenniel find his inspiration for the Queen of Hearts, in his illustrations for 'Alice in Wonderland', in this window? It's a good story, I hope it's true.

High up above the north door is the gem of Long Melford's stained glass – no, not the three panels showing monks and buildings, but that teeny little roundel!

Here's a close up so you can see the famous three hares, their shared ears forming a triangle – symbolic of the Trinity? or maybe something from an ancient pagan past. The three hares symbol is found in churches in Cornwall as well as art in the Middle East and China.

Behind the altar is a carved reredos – not Medieval but commissioned by a Victorian rector from an Italian stone carver, however the design is based on a painting by Albrecht Durer . . .

. . . that's except for the lady in Victorian Sunday best! (Supposedly the rector's mother, well, she did stump up the cash to pay the artist.)
In a corner chapel is a much spruced up medieval tomb of a knight in armour – William Clopton, Lord of Toppesfield Manor. In 1436 he granted land for the town of Hadleigh to use for a market . . . and the rent? One red rose a year!

The Mayor of Hadleigh still pays his due every year (and when the flower fades an artificial rose is put in its place until the next year) – it's the oldest rent still paid anywhere in the UK.

Returning to the main door I passed a framed picture and my 'original print antenna' beeped into action – an original lithograph by John Piper . . . it's well worth a look.

And I must thank the very knowledgeable attendant on duty at the visitors' desk in the church today – the building has so many stories to tell!



  1. Such interesting stuff... another place on my list of places to visit!

  2. That was fascinating and I really love the hares and their ears!

  3. What a wonderful day out. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. does anyone know why william clopton wanted a red rose as rent? lovely photos! such a lot of work to put those little pieces of coloured galss together...

  5. I love Long Melford and feel very privileged to live very close to it. I have an ancestor who was the blacksmith there many years ago and there are some of his metal grave heads in the churchyard still. I believe there is a connection between Long Melford, Robert Louis Stevenson and the story of Long John Silver - but that may just be a family tale?

  6. I love the muddling of different periods!

  7. wI love the history behind all the old buildings. It's hard to get my head around how old some of them really are
    . Being a relatively 'new' country (Australia) we just don't have that sense of history. So it's nice to read about somewhere else that does.

  8. It's so good to take time out and I wish I did it more often. Thank you for the inspiration and all the fascinating information!

  9. Very interesting, I've not heard of the three hares symbol before.

  10. A fascinating tour of Long Melford, somewhere I am unfamiliar with. Very interesting the red rose rent. I love snippets of the quirky nature of English history and culture.

  11. driven through a couple of times .... must stop next time!
    love the hares, thanks for the closeup

  12. I went to the Imagine Gallery, Long Melford last September. Must visit again but it's a bit of a trek from here.

  13. Celia,
    This was a great post, absolutely fascinating. My favourite bits? The rector's mother in her finery - what a hoot, and the chance to see an original John Piper, one of my all time art heroes. You lucky girl. Lesley

  14. What a lovely visit! there are so many interesting places in England that I wonder why I spend so much time visiting other countries!

  15. Hi Gina - I can recommend lunch at the Black Lion if you need an excuse to go to Long Melford.

    Hi Penny - the 3 hares is great isn't it - such a clever design.

    Hi Flower Garden - glad you enjoyed it.

    Hi Petoskystone - very good question!

    Hi Su - lucky you living so close - and yes I have noticed those metal grave heads.

    Hi Terry - English churches are a wonderful 'fruit cake' of history.

    Hi Sweet Birdy Love - it's the other way around when we visit Oz, 200 years is ancient history for modern Australia!

    Hi Skybluepinkish - I drive past that church so often without going in - and if I do I always discover something new!

    Hi Damo - the hares are cool!

    Hi Wessex Reiver - I love the red rose rent story too.

    Hi Chrissie - yes it's well worth stopping next time you travel this way.

    Hi Fiona - there's always amazing things in Imagine!

    Hi Printed Material - the rector's mother could be a character from a George Elliot novel!

    Hi Matron - I love visiting faraway places too, but uncovering treasures on your own doorstep is special.



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