Tuesday, May 5, 2009

tea and painted walls

UK 08, the never-ending ....

And on we pedalled, as mentioned, to South Elmham Hall. To be accurate, we walked the bicycles through fields until we found a paved road, muddled about with the OS maps, then pedalled on.
Circuitously, we found the entrance, with a little wooden sign saying OPEN. This was a relief, as we'd not managed to make contact with the Hall by phone or email, but were chancing it since we were close by.
Hm, no vehicles in the gravelled parking lot. Hm, no bustling staff. There was Bateman's Barn, though, and the door open. We poked our heads in. A fellow with a short haircut and squared-off build that suggested ex-military was mopping out the hallway.
"We're closed," he said.
We explained that the gate and sign said otherwise. He took pity on our windblown state and offered tea and sweets, which we accepted gratefully. I had a brownie, which was very good, even discounting for exercise & hunger.
You can see more about Bateman's Barn here, where it's ready to receive guests, but I couldn't resist a few pictures of the beams OMG the BEAMS! they are huuge. Even if it is 16th century, and therefore late by my standards.
My cunning husband explained that we'd hoped to see the wall-paintings, because I was an enthusiast of wall-paintings, and mentioned our visits to Hoxne and Thornham Parva for the sake of their wall-paintings, all said in the best-buttered 'no pressure, mind' way.
And because the owners of South Elmham Hall are terribly kind people, and have their own enthusiasm for their home (and no wonder!) by the time I'd finished the brownie, we had an invitation to see inside.

LinkJohn gave us a brief background as we walked across. The Hall is a 13th century hunting lodge for the Bishops of Norwich, and the surrounding land was a deer park, set in a moated enclosure that's older still. Ruins of a gatehouse remain, and parts of the chapel and cloister were incorporated into later farm buildings. The 13th century hall was swallowed by a 16th century farmhouse, which is itself a listed building.
The remaining wall paintings are foliate and floriate repeat patterns, nothing figural, but done with some skill and grace, considerably pricier-looking than those at Thornham Parva. John was concerned that they were fading slowly, exposed to the daylight, and indeed the section painted in (what was now) the loo did seem deeper in colour.
Mark took many more pictures--he has a steadier hand--and John mentioned that he didn't have that many photos, so we promised to email ours when we got back home.

Less impressive to the eye, perhaps, but hugely interesting to me, were rows of what looked very much like the sinoper (the sketch or underdrawing usually done in charcoal or lead and fixed with a mix of red & yellow ochres) left unpainted. Because process is more interesting to me than product, especially in medieval painting, where there's often no description of process, and it must be guessed at.
I didn't want to go sticking my face into the wall to check for pinpricks that might be compass marks, though. It seemed more polite to stick my face into the enlarged photos, afterwards.
After many thanks, we bicycled away, and turned the OPEN sign around to CLOSED as we left, just in time to forestall a small tourist party.

So, past the Church Farm moat, past where St. Nicholas used to be, on through St. Margaret Green, up Wash Lane and to St. Peter's Hall, an extensively moated site with a 13th century building (renovated extensively in the 16th century, using bits probably looted from the nearby priory and church).

You can see a bit of the moat here. There's a good deal more of it, though some has been filled or lost over the years.
Presently St. Peter's is a brewery (you can buy the ale at our local liquor store) and restaurant. A good thing, since however impressive the moat complex (and it is) one needs sustenance. The day was clear, bright, and windy, and we'd been cycling rather a lot. Also my rear tire was deflating slowly, and the pump didn't seem to affect it one way or the other.
Here's the front entrance. Nice porch, isn't it?
Some very thorough restoration work has gone on here, and given the hodgepodgey nature of many older English houses, restored and reworked and gutted and recovered over generations and wildly variant theories of architectural style, the looted ecclesiastical bits don't look out of place. It's a good idea to have done your looting a few centuries ago, and let the mellow aging settle things down in the meantime.

This is not the part we ate in, because we weren't there for dinner. We ate in the bar, which has booths and comfier benchs, having what my notes describe as a 'sumptuous lunch'. Mark had steak & ale pie, and in the interests of research I had smoked eel salad & potatoes. Smoked eel tastes like a mild white fish. The flesh is white and flakes apart easily. The skin was very slightly scaly, a little shiny. It was tasty, but not really distinctive.

Despite the sun, no one was eating outside. I found out why when I went to take photos. The Saints being on a sort of plateau (to strain the word a bit, since East Anglia isn't all that tall to start with) there isn't anything more to stop the wind than there is on Salisbury Plain.
I had my jacket tied around my waist, and very nearly lost it into the moat, tugged off by the wind.
Standing by the wall overlooking the moat was rather like standing abovedecks on the BC Ferry, the wind banging at you from all around and the sun slapping off the water. So I stayed out for a while, because I like that sensation.
Afterwards we had a walk around the brewery and the shop. Unfortunately what we'd really have liked to buy would have been difficult to bring home safely on the plane. But it was still interesting. Not often one sees a brewery with a thatched roof, after all.

Because of the troublesome rear tire, we decided against continuing on to St. Andrew's Ilketshall, even though it has wall-paintings. One mustn't be greedy.

Yes, we did see more churches, about half of the Saints that day, but this post is long enough already, so I'll leave that for another. Because I know you want to read more about moats.

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