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The Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers

Updated: 2018-04-12T10:18:15.649+01:00


Mount Grace Priory


 The Carthusian order represented a late eleventh century attempt to reconcile the coenobitic tradition of a community of faith with the eremetic tradition of solitary faith. Therefore, whilst the majority of the monk's time was spent in silent prayer, labour and isolation within their respective 'cells', they did come together for collective services twice daily within a small conventual church. This is one of the reasons for the more humble scale of the Carthusian churches relative to, say, a Benedictine foundation like Fountains Abbey that was designed around collective worship focused on the church. However, if the word 'cell' evokes images of a small place of confinement, think again. Think instead of a self-contained house and garden, with food and drink brought to you via a J-shaped serving hatch, cleverly designed to avoid direct contact with the 'conversi' (lay brothers) who served them. Today, we visited the finest surviving example of a Carthusian house in Britain, Mount Grace Priory, Yorkshire, located on the once busy pilgrimage route between York and Durham.         As well as the extensive ruins, this fascinating site includes a reconstructed cell that really does allow one to picture something of the material culture destroyed at the Dissolution. English Heritage deserve credit for their management and interpretation of this site. We received a lovely warm welcome and one of the staff members even took it upon herself to go and photocopy a sheet for us recording the mason's marks on the site.     Effective interpretation can enable visitors to imaginatively step back into the past. We will definitely be returning to this marvellous place - not least because they are in the early stages of constructing a new café to cater for visitors. The thought that the cake therein might prove to be as good as the priory site itself has our Ragged Rambler tastebuds tingling with anticipation. Huzzah![...]

St Thomas, Foxley



It was marvellous! It was more than marvellous - marvellouser than marvellous even! It felt miraculous, as if we were wandering within a landscape portrait painted from the dreams of angels. 

Eye of Aunty


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I was relaxing within the soothing environs of a medieval church in the East of Norfolk when I felt a 'presence' - a curmudgeonly and defiant presence! With a shiver I turned and, lo, there was the eye of Aunty Gary staring at me through a small hole in the medieval roof screen. Gadzooks! 

The Grim Grouch!


I had been in a blue funk, but I knew not why. I tried to smile but could only muster a rictus grin. I walked, head down, towards St Nicholas Church, Little Saxham, Suffolk - and then I looked up AIEEEEEEEEEEE!

The Dolan Bar!


All church water storage enthusiasts will know the excitement of happening upon a water tank. So it was today when, in a location in the East of England, Ragged Ramblers saw a beautiful rivetted galvinised tank. 

Having run our eager fingers over the smooth button Maxwell rivets, with a sense of rising excitement we noticed something special lurking under the water-line; something that all water storage tank enthusiasts dream of - oh it couldn't be... surely not! But it was! For what we had seen was one of the rarest and most cherished of water storage features - a Dolan bracing bar!

"Dolan bar!" we shouted with jubilation as we danced about...
"Dolan bar, huzzah!"

Sheep Deep Suffolk


What a fantastic sight it was today when Ragged Ramblers arrived at Holy Trinity, Middleton, north Suffolk. There they were, organic lawnmowers - a wonderful thing to see creatures, fringed by sunshine, roaming and grazing in between the long shadows of the tombs. 

First Ragged Ramble of 2016!


A party of Ragged Ramblers explored some churches in north Norfolk yesterday. We began our day with a rendezvouz in a café in Holt ("who goes there!"). Sufficiently fortified with hot beveridges, off we went in search of some wonderful old places - and we found them! Now, what I'm going to do here is choose a single feature from each church that I found of particular interest. I know this won't be easy, but here goes...First of the day was St Andrew's, Langham (pictured above). Buffetting by the blustery gusts of the tail-end of some ridiculously named Atlantic weather incident, the cool calm of the church interior came as a welcome relief. I was intriguid by this crudely carved graffito etched into the east end of the font, reading 'Alice Nettles 1692'. I wonder who she was and what became of her; who carved this and why? It would be interesting to take a look at the parish register and in search of traces of her presence. Next up was St Andrew's, Field Dalling. Peering over a lichen-clad wall at the church in the distance, I had a good feeling about this one. And I was not to be disappointed: a lovely welcoming church, bathed in light. The story of a good church is ever-evolving. In 1995 a parishioner, Nick Hammond, was inspired to make this handsome chandolier when he saw the 'original' hanging in Colombra Cathedral, Portugal. The central orbs are made from turned oak whilst the ornate candles are crafted in copper. This is a labour of love; a gift from the heart. By the end of 2006 the piece was completed and during the Carol Service that Christmas, Nick presented the chandolier to the church. Wonderful! Feeling invigorated and, increasingly, relaxed, we moved on to our next destination, All Saints, Morston. I liked this church VERY much and it hasn't been easy to filter out much that delights and intrigues. However, the eye-catchter for me here are the carved details on the rood screen.Although defaced, enough survives to get a sense of their former splendour.  I have seen finer carving, but these honest little figures are charming. In particular, I love the feather-legged angel - who needs a face when you've got legs like that eh!Our next destination was St Nicholas, Blakeney. The 'star' for me here is this fabulous seven-light thirteenth century window, one of only two such survivors in Britain. As you see (above) my fellow Ramblers were equally captivated by this vista. A bit special!Our last stop of the day was at St Agnes, Cawston. Once again, choosing a single feature to highlight has been very difficult. After all, there is the magnificent ashlar-clad tower, the angel roof, the rood screen with doors still in place, some lovely medieval glass and more besides. However, the thing that grabs me above all others here is this carved niche. I just love the big-headed wodewose (mythical wild man of the woods) and dragon. I want to see both of these push free from their spandrels after all these centuries and scamper off into some sun-dappled glade of lore. This is where these figures belong - in the realm of the imagination. That is where they came from. Finally, what with all the beauty, the wonder, the learning and discovery, the laughter, the poignant moments - well, it was simply too much for some of us...Postscript: my travel companions may have noted an omission here - namely, Winterton. It was the glass what done it![...]

Because they were smaller in those days...


As our Reader will appreciate, in ye olde days people were smaller. In fact, the further back in time you go the smaller those folks were. Ergo, the smaller the church the older it must be. Here we have a particularly ancient structure - certainly pre-Conquest! This is the original church now to be found within Thorington Church, Suffolk. 

Keith Vaughan - A Life Well Lived


Oh what a busy bee I've been this week. It began with me exploring some of the great Cistertian abbeys in Yorkshire; today, I've been perambulating with Ragged Ramblers in north Suffolk; on Wednesday, meanwhile, I travelled with Mr Many Coats to south west Norfolk. It is this latter journey I wish to focus on here. One of the churches we stopped at was Carleton Rode (pictured above). "Looks promising..." observed Mr Many Coats as we peered over the wall with a tingle of anticipation putting spring into our steps. To our suprise, upon entering the church we witnessed a hive of activity as people busied themselves with what turned out to be preparations for an exhibition of quilts and flowers (brilliant combination!). Being of a gregarious disposition, we were soon chatting to the volunteers about their work. Although we have no hands-on experience of quilt making or flower arranging, we Ragged Ramblers give full respect to the makers of things - especially when - as in this case - it is an expression of community pride that brings people together. "Lovely surprise!" I exclaimed to Mr Many Coats as we stepped through the open north door and into the graveyard. Within a few paces we met with more serendipity, for there before us stood a gravestone of elegant proportions that drew us towards it. What a lovely tribute: a fine collection of adjectives for someone who was clearly dearly loved. I never had the good fortune to meet Keith Vaughan, but, on the basis of this memorial, I sure wish I had. Having joked about the list of words that might sum us up once we are departed, we walked in silence, draped in the gentle warmth of Autumnal sunshine as we contemplated the generous feelings Keith had inspired. I can't speak for Mr Many Coats, but it certainly made me reflect on the importance of a life well lived. ~ Munro Tweeder-Harris Esq. ~[...]

St Andrews Church, Westhall, Suffolk


In some churches a seven sacrament font like this would be enough on its own to justify a visit...And when you look closely, some wonderful gesso work is revealed:However, here at Westhall Church in Suffolk there are SO many treasures that a Ragged Rambler hardly knows where to start! For instance, there's this stonking great Norman doorway with decorative surround...Not to mention the lower panels of a fifteenth century rood screenBut it doesn't stop here...Lovely ancient oak benches replete with compass drawn 'daisywheels'!And talking of graffiti archaeology, here's a bearded man carved into the soft ashlar of one of the piers. Oh yeh, there are medieval wall paintings as well. Finally, as I returned to my flask I had a thought: do bats crap in their sleep?[...]

Fountains Abbey


Over the past few days I have been treated to a veritable feast of ruined abbey sites as I explored a little of Yorkshire's rich medieval monastic heritage. 

Having seen images of the cellarium at Fountains Abbey on many occasions, my antiquarian heart skipped a beat at the site of arcades of green-hued ribbed vaulting receding into the distance. Such beauty from such functional form - a humble, humdrum storage area in the pre-Dissolution abbey. 

And how I must've gawped as I stared upwards, wide-eyed with wonder at the skeletal remains of the abbey's soaring bare, bleached bones. 

The transience of all earthly things; the vanity of kings; the greed of ambitious men; an irretrievable past... tantalising...

The Ramblers Lexicon


Occasionally, when the weather is less than kind, Rambling is turned inwards towards the Society archives.
One such event has happened recently which has uncovered a tome thought lost to time.
Wrapped in fine grease proof paper, crisp brown and wonderfully rustly, a book of significant significance that the findees could not believe it.
Upon the front cover, written in a most beautiful hand, reads the title, The Society Lexicon.
A book devoted to long forgotten syntax, words and idioms.

So for the first time since the last time, we present a few tasty snippets from the book.

Fiddypop ~ noun. A sweet carbonated beverage, usually served to young boys in shorts and striped shirts
Cronzpuddling ~ verb. to pour tea from one's flask with removing the lid. An urban myth.
Twarfdoy ~ verb. eating a piece of cake whilst simultaneously slurping tea.
Puddling cocky ~ a local idiom to describe a rebellious youth urinating against a wall
Vagaryparp ~ noun. To make a (sic. rude) noise whilst sitting in a leather chair
Podcroak ~ noun. The noise emanating from evil ponds.
Churmshuffle ~ verb. To walk towards a corner and immediately and abruptly turn.
Pondermutter ~ colloquialism. To talk about evil ponds.
Pityclunk ~ noun. The sound when Aunty Gary drops a pork pie on the floor.
Fesnyinghonk ~ Coll. Noun. A group of laughing Ramblers

These a just a small sample of the incredible gems within the book. I'm sure you'll agree that this discovery is worthwhile and something that should be aired regularly.

Our Cherished Albums


After a days antiquarian perambulations, we Ragged Ramblers like to thumb through some of our favourite Long Playing stereo records and relax of an evening, transported to a better place by the exquisite music. Here are some of our most cherished albums:

'Dorothy Sings Squires' is a delightful musical journey incorporating electric spoon percussion and yodelling, punctuated by some subtle dub beats. Marvellous!

 'Where Will I Shelter My Sheep?' is a unique blend of traditions, bringing the gutteral rasps of a Norfolk sheep botherer, Murdo Fluckett, together with the ethereal chorus of an oriental Geisha duo. The result = Marvellous! 

'The Galileans' need little introduction really. Since bursting onto the East Anglian Holiday Camp circuit during the late 1950s the Galileans have consistently confounded audiences seeking quality entertainment. Who can forget their triumphant performances in East Norfolk in the summer of 1971 that were captured in the legendary cassette known as, 'The Hemsby Sessions'? Marvellous! 

A Perambulation of Cahors Cathedral


Here is the west front of the cathedral in Cahors in the south of FranceStepping within, my attention was seized by the medieval wall painting high up  on the interior west walls. Looking towards the east, I took this photo with the water in the font offering offering reflections. Cahors Cathedral has two huge domes, one of which is pictured here. Personally, I like the fact that it is an imperfect circle. The east end of the cathedral presented an impressive display of stained glass. Whereas most of the side chapels where a bit too buffed up for my liking, I admired the shabby grandeur of this one. Finally, back outside, there were some outstanding corbels to admire...The Master Mason who carved this one really knew what he was about! It was fantastic to ramble a while through southern France, but I have to say, I did miss a good pot of tea. Now I'm back I will endeavour to brew up some more delectations to share with you here. Huzzah![...]

St Clement, Burnham Overy


Having visited St Clement's at Burnham Overy on the north Norfolk coast on a number of occasions I was excited to be back. Entering the graveyard I paused to look at the church elevated on its hillock. Fringed against a lovely blue sky interspersed with roaming clouds, it looked like a permanent part of the landscape. However, as we know, churches - like everything else - are subject to change. So, in Norman times it would have been a cruciform church with transepts. The substantial squat tower dates from that period. Walking up the path I was pleased to note an early 18thC gravestone memorialising Isaac Overman in the most rustic of lettering. I had to wonder if it was a palimpset; possibly previously part of a medieval mensa (altar slab)?Walking into the church my eyes fell upon this - presumably 15thC - St Christopher. The chancel is a wonderful space, full of golden sunlight and atmosphere. On the right is the narrowest of aisles. Stepping over some cherubic angels my graffiti radar went off as I noticed a lovely dedication etched into the glass.From where I stood I could hear fragments of a conversation taking place between my travel companions, Mr Many Coats and Aunty Gary, followed by sniggers and guffaws.Curious, I ambled back into the nave and looked up at the object of their amusement - a lascivious, leering lion and its privvy part. This is, we assume, what is meant by a Lion Rampant!Stepping back into the sunlight I enjoyed a slow walk around the church and looking up, noticed the fossilised gable with the steep pitch characteristic of a thatched roof of the long demolished Norman transept. [...]

Bells of Blue


Oh what a wonderful wander we had among the bells of blue at Stratton Strawless today. This open woods event is very dear to Ragged Ramblers' hearts, it traditionally being the curtain raiser to the Ramblers summer season. 

Oh what slabs of cake we consumed, so moist of crumb and delectable! What tea we sipped to slake our thirst. I bought a rubber pig and an old ink well with a lid resolutely rusted into place. I also acquired this small tome...

It's 'Norwich: a sketch book' by E.V. Cole. However, the owner has added this pleasing little ink drawing of Pull's Ferry - a lovely personal touch. There are also some little pencil studies in the marginalia...

For me, the only thing that soured the day slightly was the appallingly inappropriate behaviour of my solicitor, Tony Spunk. I won't sully your day by describing his antics and utterances. Instead, I shall dwell upon those bells so blue...

Gadzooks, it's Queen Victoria!


With great expectation, Mr. Many Coats and I cantered into St John the Baptist Church, Stiffkey. At first, we thought we were alone. However, we soon noticed a small figure sitting at the front of the church with their back to us. Hesitantly, we made our way to the chancel and when we turned to look at the person sitting there we were... we were - AMAZED!There, before us, sat Queen Victoria herself! Although we were a little tentative at first, she was actually very approachable and allowed us to photograph her without complaint. We seized upon the opportunity, realising as we did that only this visual evidence would persuade the sceptics that this was really happening.Queen Victoria talked amiably as she made her way down the nave aisle and, pausing by the font, began to take in the scent of the flowers placed upon it. I was astonished at how short she was - I mean, really tiny!Having enjoyed the heavenly scent of the blossom she slowly made her way to the porch entrance. All seemed to be going well until Mr. Many Coats - who had been eating boiled eggs all morning - let out a rasping fart from just behind her. If the sound had offended her ears, the stench that followed it was beyond a mere breach of Royal ettiquette. The fact that this was emitted at her head height can only have compounded matters!"Ever so sorry marm. Just a small tummy shame" said Mr. Many Coats. However, the deed was done and it was time for us to leave...[...]

Sir Munchmellow Cubely-Blunder


One of our esteemed members has been kind enough to share this mid-seventeenth portrait of his relative, Sir Munchmellow Cubely-Blunder, with us here on the Ragged Ramblers blog. In his days at Cambridge Munchmellow earned the nickname of 'Thud & Blunder!' in recognition of his huge losses at the cubes (dice) and for his tendency to suddenly collapse with a thud when asked to do anything that required logical thought. What a fine gentleman! Huzzah!

St Nicholas, Castle Hedingham, Essex


At the weekend a small party of Ragged Ramblers visited Castle Hedingham. For one of us this had a special meaning as it was the village where they spent part of their childhood. Here are some photographs we took on the day. What a sight! This is a fascinating church in a wonderful setting. Much of the fabric of this church dates from the early 12th century. That 'wheel window' is certainly eye-catching! Phantasmagorical figure above the porch entrance.We noted this curious creature forged in metal on the south door. Is it meant to be a boar - one of the symbols of the early patrons of this church, the de Vere family? According to some this door was once covered by the flayed skin of an executed criminal, but we remain sceptical about this.  A Norman cushion-stoup which, curiously, features the carving of a cat that is upside down. This made us speculate as to whether this was re-used. This crudely carved figure is set into the south wall of the Lady Chapel and looks, stylistically, to be Norman. Nice view of the Norman apse, illuminated by the wheel-window, above. The heavily restored 15th century rood screen features a fantastic array of carved faces and creatures. Beautiful late Norman capitals.Lion with lolling tongue, carved under the misericords (literal translation = 'mercy seat')Fragment of a wall painting.An accomplished 15th century hand inscribed this graffito into the surround of stairwell door in the west tower.These appear to be masons' marks carved into the quoins of the buttresses. [...]

Rabbit Archaeology


Earlier today I returned to the site of the Roman town, Venta Icenorum, at Caister St Edmund near Norwich. My particular interest was in some Roman middens (rubbish dump) which rabbits continue to inadvertenly excavate. Although it's a little late in the season, and the nettles are growing rapidly, I did manage to get my hands on a range of material. Here are some photos:Oyster shell - a staple of the Roman dietBone with evidence of tooling marksRoman pottery - rim of a vesselRoman pottery - fragment of base of a vessel[...]

Memorial to Heroic Self-sacrifice


Just around the corner from the Museum of London is one of my favourite places in the city. Situated in Postman's Park is Victorian artist, George Frederick Watts' Memorial to Heroic Self-sacrifice. 

Situated underneath a humble roof are beautifully glazed tiles that tell stories of ordinary people's remarkable bravery. Well worth a diversion to go and see this!

Lost in a Moment


Norwich Cathedral cloister: a wonderful place for quiet reflection; to solve it through walking. There was a stunning play of light and shadow as I stood on the top of the steps and stared, lost in the moment...

Easby Abbey, Yorkshire