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!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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