Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Adventures in an English Coastal County part three

The ancient and the modern.
Sutton Hoo, the site of one of the most amazing burial sites in Britain.  The picture shows Edith Pretty's house, a beautiful arts and crafts style building, neat and well built.  Nearby is one of the mounds on the farm.  In 1937 Edith Pretty contracted an archaeologist, Basil Brown, to investigate the mounds.  I don't think anyone was prepared for what they found and the sense of wonder must have been incredible.  For Basil unearthed a complete ship burial, probably one of the Anglo Saxon Kings of Anglia. The king was buried along with his horse, his armour and wealth, there were also sites of condemned or sacrificed men and women nearby.  

The ship remains discovered at Sutton Hoo in 1939.
Click on the picture to visit the NT site.

The site is now home to a reconstruction of the burial, and a complete exhibition of the finds; the originals of which are now in the British Museum.  The learning about the culture of the period is fascinating, sword and metal crafting technology on a par with the Samurai of Japan.  Jewelry work of exquisite beauty, along with minted coins and silver-smithing on the helmets and shields.  Each piece of information was gripping in the stories that it told. 

The place of women in the society was also interesting,  They were of great importance, for cementing alliances between tribes and kingdoms.  So still chattels in that sense, however they also held the roles of wise women and Councillor.  With respected opinions and a role as adviser   

After spending the morning with the Anglo Saxons, we thought a change of period was in order.  So we headed up the road to the Suffolk Punch Trust.  The center is a charity devoted to the preservation of the wonderful breed of heavy horse.  They are less heavy than the full shires, without feathering on the fetlock.  
"The legs of a chambermaid and the backside of a cook"  the old countryman's description.

The center has several exhibitions: one is of life in horse powered rural Suffolk, with pictures, tools, and film; one is of the vehicles pulled by the horses and the last is of the horses themselves.  They are gentle giants with beautiful faces, the mares in the above photo had a foal each; they could smell (on my hands) the apple I had eaten for lunch and spent 5 minutes nosing all over me to see if they could find it.

The following day we spent time in Southwold, it is one of the busiest of the coast towns, very pretty and with a lovingly restored pier.  The boys enjoyed the sand and the sea, Tim enjoyed the Under the Pier Show, designed by the incomparable Tim Hunkin.  I thought it was a lovely town, but was put off by the sheer number of people there.  It is a place marred by second home owners, and there were far too many voices with out hint of a Suffolk accent. I have no problems with locals renting out houses for tourism and the much needed income but I am not a fan of the weekend country house brigade; they push up prices and cause the demise of local amenities.  How is it possible to sustain your business' income on a population that is only there 2 days a week and brings most of the food from home! (Soapbox duly stood on and ranted over).

We dropped into Leiston Priory on the way home.  This is the ruined remains of an enormous abbey, priory and settlement.  There is quite a lot of the building left and lots of evidence of the layout and rooms used by the inhabitants.  Attached to the ruins is a music school for talented youngsters,  they were rehearsing for the forthcoming Aldeburgh festival.  This takes place over the end of August, when the population of the area swells with music lovers from the world over. A glorious place for music.

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