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!
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