Lady Anne Bacon Drury (1572-1624) was the niece of Sir Francis Bacon, though these paintings, created in the early 17th Century, are a reason for her to be recognised in her own right. The panels, depicting a wide range of symbolic images, were found in a special room in Lady Drury’s estate, and were moved to Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich in 1924.
The exact story of the panels, and the order in which they should be read, isn’t known, but they are filled with Biblical and Classical imagery, and share a great deal of similarities with emblem books: collections of images with allegorical meanings that were hugely popular at the time.
What is it about Suffolk that allows the murder muse to descend? This beautiful county, with its wild north sea and vast canopy of sky, provides both setting and provenance for many crime novels by women.
P D James had a house in Southwold and Ruth Rendell lived in Polstead and Aldeburgh. Both women – who were great friends, towering figures in British crime writing, and died within six months of each other – set many of their books in or near the county. Nicci Gerrard, who writes in her own name and jointly with her husband using his surname French, is based near Bury St Edmunds. Southwold moved Julie Myerson, who has a home there, to exploring the repercussions of murder in Something Might Happen. Josephine Tey, the Scottish crime writer, took up residence in a cottage in Suffolk – though this last is fiction itself, the work of modern Suffolk-born novelist Nicola Upson, described as a new and assured talent by P D James.
Is it the unfortunate fate of a Victorian Suffolk woman that has led to this extraordinary proliferation of Crime Queens? Maria Marten was murdered in Polstead’s Red Barn by her lover William Corder. In 1936 the melodramatic film Murder in the Red Barn was released and achieved cult status. It’s rather fitting that Polstead, home to this tale, was also home to Ruth Rendell.
The Norfolk fisherman John Craske, born in 1881, fell ill and spent time in hospital and Thorpe Mental Asylum in early adulthood, before being released into the care of his wife Laura. By way of reducing his ‘stupors’ – which could last up to three years at a time – she gave him the means to paint and taught him to stitch, and so a lifetime of extraordinary creation began.
Craske created hundreds of pieces depicting seascapes, fishing and boats, and was informally sponsored by the poet Valentine Ackland and her partner, the writer Sylvia Townsend Warner, who bought a great deal of his work and encouraged their circle to do the same. Benjamin Britten was a fan, as was John Betjeman.
It’s for his intricately stitched pieces – often from memory or imagination – that Craske is celebrated and his work can be found in galleries and collections including across Norfolk Museums Service and Aldeburgh Music.
At the heart of the charming Gainsborough’s House garden you will find a huge and venerable mulberry tree: quite spectacular with its spreading, giant boughs now propped by tree stumps.
The tree dates back to well before the birth of Thomas Gainsborough: it was planted in the early 1600s during the reign of James I, who encouraged the planting of mulberry trees with the idea of establishing a silk producing industry. Silk weaving took off in Sudbury (as explored in the previous 365 item, Sudbury Silk) but not silk producing, and this tree is now the well-tended producer of fruit from which jam is made once a year.
Young Gainsborough would have spent many happy hours in the company of the tree, and visitors to his childhood home are delighted and moved to make contact with this link to his past.
As with so many wonderful things, The Electric Picture Palace comes as a complete surprise.
The building on Blackmill Road, Southwold, was once a garage and a cart shed. Not something you’d necessarily realise from its ornate exterior and lush interior, complete with rising cinema organ. Michael Palin cut the ribbon to this cherished institution back in 2002, blessing it with warm well wishes “May your screen bring joy and your organ continue to rise!”
In 2015, the cinema was proud to announce the installation of a Royal Box which raised seating capacity from a cosy 68 to a positively snuggly 70.
Architect John Bennett is behind this, and you can’t just buy a ticket – you need to join the Southwold Film Society. Probably a good addition to your memberships.
Willy Lott’s House in Flatford features in one of Constable’s best loved paintings, ‘The Hay Wain’.
In the early 1900s, when there was a revival of interest in John Constable, the house was renovated and renamed Willy Lott’s House. This was clearly a term of fondness: Willy Lott was a good friend of the Constable family, and it is rumoured that he only ever spent four nights out of his 84-year life away from home.
If you want to experience the life that Willy Lott enjoyed, the cottage provides dormitories for those on residential Field Studies Council (FSC) courses. Visitors can also see inside the building on National Trust tours.
To find out more about this and other National Trust properties in Constable Country, visit the National Trust website.
And if you’d like your own lovely home in Suffolk, even for a flying visit, find out more at Visit Suffolk.
The ruins at Covehithe, Suffolk stand alone, at the end of a long, narrow country lane that leads to the clifftops.
The walls of what was once a great medieval church to rival the ones at Blythburgh and Southwold are almost all that remain of the original temple, but in the seventeenth century a smaller church was built within, though it too is in a rather poor state of repair.
The cliffs on which the ruins stand are gradually being eroded by the relentless North Sea, so it is hard to predict how long this piece of history will be around to view. It’s probably best not to wait.
The Sandringham Estate in Norfolk has been the private home of the British Royal Family for four generations, since it was purchased by Queen Victoria in 1862 for her son who would eventually become King Edward.
The first orchards at Sandringham were planted by King George VI, and have been yielding apples ever since. The orchards produce seven varieties of apple, and they are all pressed into different apple juices at the on-site juice factory. The juices are a Royal Family favourite, and are regularly served a Buckingham Palace.
The Duke of Edinburgh is responsible for the management of the grounds, and conservation is crucial to ensure that future generations can enjoy it. Every year over five thousand trees and several miles of hedges are planted, and the grounds are sympathetically farmed to encourage many different species of wildlife to thrive.
The estate and a museum exploring royal life are both open to the public year-round, and include tours of the Sandringham Orchards. Plan a visit at the Sandringham Estate website.
Visit the estate, the nearby Sandringham, and the rest of West Norfolk at Visit West Norfolk.
These stained glass windows are quite a constrast to the Jacobean and Georgian architecture of Felbrigg Hall. Whilst the property avoided a full Victorian renovation, these windows were installed in 1840 in the Great Hall.
One of the most elegant country houses in East Anglia, and perhaps the entire UK, Felbrigg Hall is a place of surprises and delights; it boasts a fine Gothic style library and a magnificent collection of Grand Tour paintings.