Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lincoln to Diss via Jane

UK 08 continued: A lovely breakfast at Orchard House, Lucia's veg preferences cheerfully accommodated, and much chat from our host about recent floods and subsequent renovations. He'd thought being on a hillside would be decent protection against flooding, but the running-downhill part sent a cascade through the kitchen. The commonality of household disasters holds true.
I finished Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverley and passed it on to Lucia last night. It's odd that it has random features in common with The Reluctant Smuggler (which I left in Vancouver Airport as an unofficial Book Crossing). Both have heroes with unbalanced mothers and a fear of inherited madness, and households employing scarred or handicapped servants who are fiercely loyal. The Beverley book was more engrossing (one of those given away at Potlatch the month before), so I was glad to share it.

Jane (Lucia's GPS) guided us safely to King's Lynn (though I have maps printed out for backup), where we waited at the slightly grubby Victorian train station for Mark.
I know it's King's Lynn and not East Lynne, but I still found myself murmuring 'Dead! And never called me mother!' at odd moments.

On to Diss and Wingfield, with Jane directing us through tiny country lanes and up and down surprising hills, considering that East Anglia is pretty flat. Triumphant (not to mention relieved) arrival at Gables Farm, where we unload quickly and set off for Wingfield College.
We are late additions to the tour, which had been mistakenly described as full. Fortunately Mark had asked further, and since everyone knows everyone else locally, that was sorted out.

Above is the church, St. Andrew, Wingfield. Wingfield is called College because it was a chantry college, turned into a private residence and later disguised as a nice symmetrical Georgian house instead of a muddly Great Hall and dormitories etc. We started in the church, which is a lovely 14th-15th c. building. Like most of the Suffolk churches we visited, it's much larger than it's ever needed to be for the population it served. In this case it has an excuse, having been built by a wealthy and powerful family.

Here's the church from the back of Wingfield College, past the garden topiary. There's a porch on this side, because of the college.
Inside is much lighter than you might expect, because of the many windows and the pale stone (I'm not sure where it was brought from).
Peter, present owner of the College and giver of the tour, is a thin, youngish fellow with curly black hair and an air of restrained energy, as if he'd like to race off somewhere. He directs us to sit in the choir stalls, ranks of inset seats with carved arm-rests. Once we're in place, he breaks the news that our seats date from the 14th century.
You can see here the misericordia, the underneath of the proper seat, which swung up (like theatre seats today) to lie against the back. Little bum-rests protrude so that you can park your buttocks during a long service and remain standing--to all appearances.
I was a bit disappointed that the misericordia weren't carved into scenes or animals, just some sedate vinery, but one can't have everything, and there were heads carved for armrests, and elsewhere a few cheerful dogs, which came out fuzzy in my photos, unfortunately.

Mark and I took many photos in the church, particularly of the two effigies and their costume details, but I won't reproduce them here because I can't assume my assumed readers are medieval-costume-and-armour wonks. I was excited to discover some remaining paint on the underside of both--that frustrating phrase that occurs in so many museum catalogues, 'traces of polychrome'--and got photos of every stain, though it might not be safe to assume any of it was original. Simon's pictures (on the Suffolk Churches site) are much better than mine, but I may post a couple of features he didn't include, later.

Then across the way to the College itself. You can see that it looks rather Georgian from the outside, but as Peter explained, closer examination shows that one of the windows is false, and the lack of symmetry is disguised by the placement of a tree in the front drive.
We had a look at the front parlour, with a tidy little Georgian fireplace, then into the restored Great Hall.
The best aspect of Wingfield is how much of the original structure remained, hidden under Tudor and Georgian overlay. The massive original beams and posts, the 14th century windows, the wattle-and-daub or brick-nogging inlay between the posts. It's rather like Hemingford Grey in that respect. The tricky thing about England is that the later overlays can end up having their own historical significance, so that to get at the 14th century beams, you may have to decide whether to remove some attractive 17th century plasterwork.
The Victorian bell-pulls to summon servants have been retained in what was the servants' wing.

Underneath the 14th c. window is a 16th c. screen carved with linenfold panels and the likenesses of the then-patrons: Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, his wife Mary (sister of Henry VIII: romantic story attached to that) and their son.

Our party is led through the rest of the house, including a bathroom with a carved oak close-stool and a huge metal bath, not native to the house but brought by Peter and his wife from their old flat in Paris. It's clearly a lived-in house, with a row of brightly-coloured small shoes and boots along one wall, and children's watercolour paintings pinned to a string across the bedroom. The floors are built of great wide planks that have shrunk and warped so that in some places thin strips of modern wood have been jammed between them to prevent the loss of marbles and small toys.

Last scheduled stop is the kitchen, where a long table is laid with tea and homemade cakes (included in cost of tour) Victoria sponge cake, gingerbread, and sticky date cake. I will bear witness that Jane (Peter's wife, not Lucia's GPS) would do well running a tea-shop if she ever needed a second career. In fact, thinking about this makes me want to make gingerbread, though mine isn't as good. Mmm.
Then we're turned out to the gardens, where the squared-off body of water is a fishpond, not a moat, and has a wall marching down into it, which Peter hopes to excavate and study some day.
Mark, Lucia, and I wander through the gardens, then go for another look at the church and more photos. Of which, more later.

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