North Elmham Chapel

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North Elmham Chapel © David Gill

In the late Anglo-Saxon period North Elmham was a focal point for the Bishops of East Anglia. The bishopric was moved to Thetford in 1071.

Bishop Herbert de Losinga [ODNB] founded a church, after 1091, on the site of the earlier Anglo-Saxon cathedral. At some point after 1388 Bishop Henry le Despencer turned the former chapel into a castle. Part of the walls within the inner moat can be seen to the right of the chapel’s apse.

The chapel is now in the care of English Heritage.

The MPBW published a short paper guide by S.E. Rigold (1960) using the site’s then title of ‘North Elmham Saxon Cathedral’.

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1960 (repr. 1966)

Rendlesham Conference

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Rendlesham Conference © David Gill

Some 450 delegates attended a conference at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds to hear about the results of the survey and excavations (2008-14) at the vicus regius of Rendlesham in Suffolk. One of the themes explored was the relationship between this apparent elite site on the Deben with the ship-burial site at Sutton Hoo. A further discussion was on the place of the former Saxon Shore fort at Walton Castle (near Felixstowe).

Papers were:

  • Sir Michael Bunbury, The landowner’s perspective
  • Faye Minter, How Rendlesham has been investigated
  • Jude Plouviez, Results: the Roman period
  • Christopher Scull, Results: the Anglo-Saxon period
  • Andrew Woods, Interpreting the early medieval coins
  • Charlotte Scull, Beasts and feasts: the animal resources
  • Kelly Kilpatrick, The place-names of a royal Anglo-Saxon landscape: a toponymic survey of Rendlesham and the Deben valley
  • Tom Williamson, Rendlesham in context: the changing geographies of early medieval England
  • Andrew Rogerson, Not always a backwater, the northern half of the East Anglian Kingdom in the 5th-9th centuries
  • Christopher Scull, Suffolk, East Anglia and the North Sea: the importance of Rendelsham in the 5th to 8th centuries AD

Martin Carver chaired the final session and emphasised the international significance of the discoveries. Christopher Scull outlined plans for publication (including an article in Antiquity) and future grant applications.

The conference was organised by Suffolk County Council with support from the Sutton Hoo Society, Council for British Archaeology East, and University of Suffolk.

The conference was sponsored by Suffolk Archaeology, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, Suffolk County Council, British Sugar and the National Trust.

Guidebooks to Carisbrooke Castle

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1933 (2nd ed. 1948; 10th impress. 1964)

The first official guidebook to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight was by Sir Charles Peers. This was one of the earliest of Peers’ guidebooks, and was reissued as a second edition in 1948. It is divided into two main sections: description and history. There are two foldout plans at the back, one showing the castle, and the other the earthworks surrounding it. There are also a series of black and white illustrations.

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1956 (7th impress. 1967)

An illustrated guide appeared in 1956, and was prepared by the Central Office of Information. The format consists of small black and white photographs with a short text adjacent to each. (The style is similar to that adopted for Holyroodhouse.) The second half has a longer text (‘A short history’), and there is a short section on the donkey wheel.

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2010 (rev. 2013)

The present English Heritage (red) guide is by Christopher Young. This now starts with a tour, followed by a history. There is a foldout plan inside the back cover.

Peers identified ‘the stone-walled fort which underlies the Norman earthworks is probably of late Roman construction’. Elsewhere he notes, ‘The rounded angles and the type of masonry suggest a Roman origin for this walled enclosure … The plan of the gateway and the small turret are, however, quite different from anything in any of the Roman coast fortresses …’ The illustrated guide also asserts that ‘beneath the Norman earthworks … there are traces of a Roman fort, but there is no recorded history of the Castle in Roman times’. The English Heritage guide identifies these putative Roman features as the walls of a Saxon fort dating to c. 1000. It states, ‘there is no secure evidence of Roman occupation on the castle hilltop itself’.

Lindisfarne Priory

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Lindisfarne Priory © David Gill

The first monastery on Lindisfarne was established in the 7th century AD by St Aidan. St Cuthbert was buried here at the end of the century; his remains were later moved to Durham. A new monastery was founded from Durham in the early 12th century.

The west front of the church contained two towers (the southern one remains). The inside face of the west front shows the traces of the vaulting that covered the nave of the church, a feature that recalls Durham.

At the top of the front are arrowloops that were constructed  to defend the priory from attack during the border wars with Scotland.

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Lindisfarne Priory © David Gill

The present parish church of St Mary was built to the west of the priory church and dates to the 13th century.

Ruthwell Cross

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Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

The Ruthwell Cross now stands in a specially constructed apse (1887) in Ruthwell Parish Church (although it is in the care of Historic Scotland). It is some 5.7 m in height, and dates to the early 8th century.

The inscribed text includes sections of The Dream of the Rood linked to Caedmon.

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Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

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Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

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Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

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Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

The cross stood at the entrance to the Manse from 1823 to 1887 (when it was placed in the church).

North Elmham guidebook

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1960 (repr. 1966)

North Elmham was the location of an Anglo-Saxon cathedral for East Anglia. The site was excavated by the Reverend A.G. Legge in 1871, and was placed in State Guardianship in 1948.

Stuart E. Rigold prepared the paper guide for the site in 1960 (reprinted with amendments in 1966). The twelve page guide includes a history of the site, a general plan (on page 4) and a detailed plan of the cathedral (pp. 6-7), followed by a description: the castle earthworks; the cathedral, the west tower, the nave, the eastern arm, and Despenser’s adaptations.

The site is now in the care of English Heritage and is known as North Elmham Chapel.

Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald

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In March 2016 the Department for Transport announced a £1 million fund to make it easier to travel by rail. Minister Claire Perry MP has spoken about the ‘great ideas’ that had been put forward.

A group of us proposed a project, ‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’. This will involve using proximity prompts to encourage visitors to move from viewing the Sutton Hoo finds in the British Museum, the UK’s top tourist attraction (see here), to the find-spot in Suffolk. The app will provide information about how to get to Liverpool Street, how to buy tickets, where to change (at Ipswich), and where to alight (Woodbridge or Melton). It will then have further details of where to buy food and coffee, and how to walk (or find other transport) from the station.

Minister Claire Perry MP announced the winners yesterday (“Rail tourism winners announced“, 25 May 2016). The competition “offers grants to rail operators for innovative ideas and trials and is aimed particularly at heritage railways and community rail partnerships. It hopes to encourage more tourists and make it easier to explore the UK by rail.”

‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’ was one of the 17 winners and the team members are looking forward to delivering the project over the next year.

Claire Perry MP commented: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that this project is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Suffolk.”