In search of history: sniffing England’s heritage

Some thoughts and things I jotted down while driving from Boston (the one in England) to Bury St. Edmunds last week, where the famous priory lay centuries ago. 

Early in the morning I drove to Peterborough cathedral and attended Holy Communion there. There were so many people there, I felt uplifted. The Norman interior of the church was conveying this sense of security, with the thick pillars, small window openings and scarce decoration. I wasn't expecting the West front to be so different from all the churches I had seen elsewhere. 

Next, to Castle Acre where I saw the priory ruins and the motte-and-bailey castle. It's impressive how most of the priory church fell down but the West front is still in almost one piece and most of the decorations, including the blind arcading is still visible in the middle of a seemingly pasture field.

Hedgerows in Suffolk

Since the place is run by the English Heritage trust, I had to pay an entrance fee to see the priory site. What I found particularly interesting was the latrine house which had been built over a small river so that the waste would wash away (towards the nearest village downriver). I thought how much Henry VIII lacked in economic foresight: A lot of money would have been made out of entrance fee to all the abbeys that were dissolved in the late 1530s. 4 pounds 50p to see some ruins, maybe double to see the actual place. 

After leaving the place, I tried to reach Thetford Priory but all that I managed to do was circle the priory close and get back to the car empty-handed. However, I did get to see a nice residential neighbourhood with some stunning front gardens.

Originally, I wanted to drive directly to Bury St. Edmunds from Thetford but I had a sudden urge to see the sea in Norfolk. Therefore, I turned left on the motorway (I'm still in the UK) and drove through some beautiful woodland (might have been Thetford Forest Park, but it needs checking); I even saw thatched houses. 

There are indeed magnificent houses everywhere and similar stone tower churches in every village. One trademark is the cornerstones that give a nice impression overall. There's also great traffic management with lots of smart markings and good road conditions.

On the other hand, there are not as many sheeps here in the East as in the Midlands or the South.

I learned about the Fens but scarcely saw any marshes on the way to the sea. I crossed a major river but forgot to write down its name or to look it up thereafter, so now it's lost unless I rewind my route and check for major river crossings which I don't actually have time for.

I listened to good radio and liked one song more than the others: Brad Paisley's "Catch all the fish"

One intriguing thing: there were many references to Poland in one day: Polish shop in Peterborough "Polski Sklep", Polish-speaking chaps drinking Wiwieck beer on the green in Thetford; fellow saying something about Krakow on the radio.

Otherwise, good weather with sporadic showers and overcast clouds.

Orford Castle, a strangely unfamiliar addition to the 12th c. collection of Norman keeps

Before it started to get dark I arrived in Orford and parked the car near the Norman keep. After spending half an hour there writing all this down on a picnic bench I went to see the sea in Felixstowe. I had hardly got the coast when I felt hungry. I turned right near Melton in Suffolk and had dinner at Willford Bridge inn: fish pie, cherry tart and a pint of Regata ale to wash it all with. 

One last thing I wrote before the end of the day"

People are so nice everywhere. England is such a natural country for such unnatural eating habits people here have. Am desperately looking for non-fried, non-battered, fresh fish. The closest I've got so far is roasted salmon. That's a start, I hope it gets better.

It all gets down to food, one way or another, I guess.

Below there are some photos from the day before, from York to Boston, marking off parts of Yorkshire, Scarborough, Lincoln.. 

The flying buttresses of York Minster, while I was catching my breath from climbing the billion stairs to the tower. 

The waterfront in Scarborough, an originally small fishermen village, now a bustling town with 10 fish&chips venues on a square meter. 

The ferris wheel in Scarborough right in the surf splash.

The Humber bridge in all its glory. You have to be there to appreciate all its majesty. 

Lincoln, very close to what it must have looked like in the good old days. Behind me, Lincoln Castle. 

All photos featuring on this blog can be found on my Flickr page


  1. Henry VIII certainly did make money from the Dissolution of the monasteries. As they and their extensive lands were bought up by by courtiers and the newly wealthy the money went into Henry’s coffers. Demolition material was then sold for profit.


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