Monday, July 26, 2010

South Elmham

Within their own earthworks the stubbs of flint walls delineate where once a proud building stood.  Not the Saxon Minster promised by the Ordinance Survey map but a rather later build, like churches in Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn and the cathedral in Norwich, the work of Herbert de Losingia. But Herbert built where a church had stood from the earliest days of  Christianity in East Anglia.  Beneath ancient Hornbeams the all pervading green is relieved by flowers -  patches of Red Campion and  the white filigree of Queen Ann’s Lace. And from tree top stalls Blackbirds sing antiphonally where once choirs sung their Creators praise.

This is South Elmham. I had walked to the glade on way marked paths from a car park at South Elmham Hall where I’d called into the café to pick up a leaflet.
The  parishes of the Ferding of Elmham form a block of land which might have been given to St. Felix by King Sigbert in the 7th Century.
“Of Elmham”  Bishops were designated from the time of Beaduwine in the 7th Century  to Herfast in the 11th  with a break of a hundred years when Vikings disturbed the peace.  “Yes, but!” I hear Norfolk voices objecting, “North Elmham in Norfolk.! Not South Elmham is Suffolk!”  Here in a nutshell you have the “Elmham Question”. Were the bishops Bishop of North or South Elmham.  I offer no solution here. Where the bishop’s had his official seat  - his cathedra  - doesn’t seem all that important. Whatever the answer South Elmham is a place where prayer has been valid and Bishops of Elmham had oversight of churches on both sides of the Wensum.

My first stop in Suffolk had been to Flixton Church a  rebuilt in the 19th Century. Architecturally it  is a Victorian homage to the Saxon past and like the church it replaced it is  set on a hill overlooking the valley. The churchyard is a nature reserve full of birdsong and flowers. Both the church dedication and the name of the village link it to St. Felix.   The name Flix –ton is Felix’s – farm!  It proves nothing of course still and well I prayed for the continuing conversion of East Anglia

Before crossing back into Norfolk  I went on to St. Peter’s. It’s the home of St. Peter’s Brewery – another sort of pilgrimage I suppose! Their beer and good food are served in the moated hall an amazing 16th century building incorporating ecclesiastical material from the dissolved Flixton Priory.

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