St Mary's at Haddiscoe on the Norfolk-Suffolk border is one of East Anglia's most bewitching roundtower churches. Parts of the structure are eleventh century - and much of the construction is fifteenth century, including the distinctively patterned battlements at the top of the tower.
In the main aisle, there are several memorials - couple with slightly macabre skull-like markings -
- and there's a remnant of a fourteenth century wall painting of St Christopher with baby Jesus.
Just a mile away there's another charming round tower church - St Matthias at Thorpe. It's also still in use and has a tower which is, in part, late Saxon ...
... and St Matthias has the rare bonus, for a church, of a thatched roof!
Paris? Not quite! This remarkable late Victorian pile overlooks not the Seine but the North Sea. And it's known by locals as the Hotel de Paris, rhyming wiith Harris not Marie.
The building doesn't exactly shout Parisian gaiety - it's a touch dour, though with some nice design flourishes such as the mosaic tiles in the entrance.
The current hotel dates from the 1890s and replaced an earlier building of the same name. It stands above the pier at Cromer on the north Norfolk coast - a town which has a lot going for it, not least its very tasty crabs, but isn't anything like as fashionable as it was when the hotel came up.
The hotel currently has 61 rooms, is three star and has 'free WiFi in public areas' - I think you get the picture. It's a listed building and deservedly so - a touch of faded elegance on the North Sea coast.
Burgh Castle - on the Saxon shore
These charming churches with round towers are a hallmark of East Anglia. There are 160 or so still standing - the greater number in Norfolk ... and only a handful in other parts of England. It seems that East Anglia was short of the sort of stone that could form a substantial corner stone, so developed an architectural style which surmounted that limitation.
This one is at Burgh Castle - it's pronounced 'borough' as in Edinburgh - in Norfolk, overlooking the river Waveney and close to the spot where it joins the Yare.
The lower part of the tower is late Saxon or early Norman - much of the rest is from the twelfth century onwards, except part of the nave which is nineteenth century.
The church - dedicated to St Peter and St Paul - still has services every Sunday. I asked how big the congregation is. "Oh, we get in double figures - just."
The church has some nice stained glass - the most curious being fairly modern, and about as wonky historically as you can get -
Never mind the 'best monarchs of Britain' business - that's just sentimental pap.
More grievous is the suggestion that Alfred was a king of Britain ... the implication that there was a direct royal lineage between Alfred and Victoria ... and then there's that wonderful doctoring of the historical record to give Alfred's date of death two years later than generally accepted because it makes a round thousand years between the demise of these two best-of-the-best.
Almost adjoining the church is one of the most remarkable Roman monuments I have ever come across - and open to the public without cost or restriction. It's a third century Roman fort set up on the Saxon shore to keep a look-out for raiding parties - and three of the walls still stand to more-or-less their original height. (The fourth wall has fallen into the marshes).
This may have been the fortress of Gariannonum. It's on raised land looking out over a wide expanse of marshes - what an impression it must have given of solidity and substance.
Eventually, of course, the Anglo-Saxons prevailed. After the Romans left, a corner of the fort was taken over in the seventh century as a religious settlement, established by an Irish holy man, St Fursey. He became so alarmed by the continuing raids from the sea that he eventually moved to France and established a monastery there.
I'm so glad I chanced across Burgh Castle!
Take the details of the Stepney branch secretary ... yes that's Clement Attlee, He was then 26 and based at Toynbee Hall. 13 years later he became the MP for Limehouse; another 13 years on, he became the leader of the Labour Party; and 10 years after that he took office as Prime Minister of the most reforming government in Britain's modern history.
And I was surprised to see that the small West Yorkshire mill village where I grew up had its own ILP branch. Leonard Newell was the secretary of the Gildersome ILP:
Nearby Drighlington also had its own branch, as did Morley, while Batley had two - one of them the only women's branch listed in the directory (secretary, Miss N.E. Turner).
Many years ago I bought for my father a 1790 first edition of Burke's book - and that's now in my possession. It is a particularly fine copy - and I hope Burke doesn't mind the proximity of his detractor (and even if he does, Tom Paine stays ... after all Paine was a stay-maker!)
The first football match I ever saw - 56 years ago, as far as I can make out - was Huddersfield Town against Leyton Orient. That was in the old Second Division (the equivalent of the Championship) and Town won 2-1. Town is my team, that hasn't changed ... but I've always had a soft spot for Orient. They are London's least fashionable club. But on occasions down the years, I've gone to watch them - they have a nice, compact ground and you can always get tickets.
Mind you, it's seven years since I last popped round to Brisbane Road ... Huddersfield Town were in town, and they won convincingly. That was back in the day when young Jordan Rhodes was playing - and scoring - for Huddersfield.
Orient have had a rough time recently. Two years ago they slipped out of the Football League altogether. Last season, hugely against the odds, they won promotion back to League Two. Today was their first game back - against Cheltenham.
But over the summer, their much loved head coach Justin Edinburgh - the man behind Orient's dramatic bounce back in footballing fortunes - died after a heart attack. So it was a bitter sweet match today for Orient's players and supporters.
Well over 6,000 fans squeezed into Orient's stadium - not far off capacity, I suspect - and stood in silence for a minute in Justin Edinburgh's memory. The cover of the match programme was also devoted to him. Two banners commemorating him were paraded around the ground. In a particularly generous touch, one had been funded by donations from Cheltenham supporters' groups. There are moments when football makes you proud.
And the game? Scrappy. Cheltenham had the upper hand in the first half. Orient were much better in the second-half and managed to score, if in rather undistinguished fashion, Two minutes later, there was a double sending off ... with a difference! Both those shown the red card were Cheltenham players.
In spite of that rather serious setback, Cheltenham remained threatening and Orient failed to get a second goal. But at least they are back in the Football League and have a victory to cheer them on their way.
Orient, the team from the East, are rising again.
OK, a lifetime ambition realised. I've no idea why it took me so long.
I am now the owner of a Penny Black, the most renowned of all postage stamps (remember them?). It was issued in 1840 and bears a likeness of the young Queen Victoria. And it was the first postage stamp, establishing what remain the key elements of the Royal Mail and most other postal services, that the sender meets the cost of postage (before stamps were introduced it was the receiver) and that there's a standard charge, based on weight and size, for any domestic destination.
As a youngster I collected stamps, and I dreamt of having a Penny Black. In my dreams, I would hold the stamp firmly in my hand - imagining this at least made it possible that I would wake up with the prized item still in my grip. My parents once bought me as a present a Twopenny Blue - of similar vintage - which was very nice, and I still have it. But it doesn't quite have the magic of a Penny Black.
The stamp was not perforated but cut out of sheets - so, many have no or irregular margins. This is a nice one with all four margins in place. The Penny Black was withdrawn after a year or so because its black colour made it difficult to see whether the stamp had been franked and many were improperly reused. The Penny Red took its place (and is much more common), and the colour of the frank was changed from red to black.
This Penny Black is on a small size envelope and bears the frank date of 14th December 1840. I wonder if it originally contained a Christmas card? It was sent to Miss Goodbehere in Highbury, an address not all that far away from where I live.
All that makes me even more pleased to have achieved a childhood ambition.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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