Wednesday 31 October 2018

All Hallows Eve and Samhain

The Eve of All Saints Day or Halloween as it's more usually called is now associated with pumpkins, and dressing up but it is a day that has for centuries been shrouded in mysteries and superstition.
The Night of the Dead - the most unpredictable night of the year - when festivals from many cultures collide.

On Hallowe'en the old ghosts come
About us- and they speak to some

The traditional beliefs of  Halloween are connected with rituals performed for Samhain, the Celtic festival celebrated in Ireland and Scotland. Samhain was one of the four Celtic festivals known as quarter days. The meaning of the word in old Irish is 'summers end'. Celts considered sundown as the start of a day, which is why although Samhain is November 1st, it would have been celebrated at sundown on the 31st. It was their new year and fires would have been lit on the hilltops to drive out the evil of  the last year and welcome in the new. Later festivities would have been influenced by the Christian feasts of All Saints on the 1st and All Souls on November 2nd, when the dead are remembered in prayers.

For on Hallowmas Eve the Nighthag shall ride,
And all her nine-fold sweeping by her side 
(Waverley by Sir Walter Scott published in 1814

 In the past it was a night for staying by the fire, out of harms way, and telling fortunes.
Fortune telling was done by throwing a hazelnut into the fire and seeing how it burned, or by peeling an apple and looking for the shape of the peel. These were ways of foretelling a birth or death in the family, the success of a marriage or the initials of a future husband.
In some parts of the country the 31st of October was known  as Mischief Night when mummers  would blacken their faces and knock on doors asking for cash. So although we think the trick or treat idea for Halloween came here from the USA, along with pumpkins, during the last 25 years, it's not completely  new............... before pumpkins,  faces would have been carved from swedes, turnips or mangle wurzels.

Years ago at the smallholding pumpkins were always one of the ways we made a bit of money through the  month of October when most other crops had finished. I searched the old blog and found the picture from 2014 - the year when we were given some seeds for giant pumpkins. We sold all these and also £75 worth of normal sized pumpkins. It was always hard work planting the small pumpkin plants out on the field in the late spring but a very useful income in late Autumn, as it is for many bigger farmers.

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Tuesday 30 October 2018

The Giant Book Sale

Saturday morning I did  a 45 minute drive down the busy A12 to the outskirts of Colchester for the giant NSPCC secondhand book sale.
I got there in good time to be about 20th in the queue to get in - by golly it was freezing waiting, the organisers actually let everyone in  5 minutes early which was a first.

I don't think there were as many people as some years and definitely less books - especially the non-fiction. It's held in the gym/main hall of a prep school  and gets pretty squashed!

I bought these for me
and these for the grandchildren's advent pressies for 2020 ( think I nearly have 48 books saved now)
Everything was either 50p, £1 or £1.50 so not a huge expense.

I need to do another sort out of some books to go to ziffit or charity shop to make room for these new purchases - 9 in had better result in more than 9 going out I think.

Thank you for hamper comments yesterday and hello and welcome to follower 427, hope you enjoy reading.

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Monday 29 October 2018

Hamper Plans

Right then, a decision was made, I WOULD do a couple of hampers for Christmas.

Firstly I found the list I'd made in the back of this years diary - a short list of ideas written around Christmas time last year.

Then I looked in my Christmas Book to see what I'd made in the past.

2015 = Red Wine and a home made mulled wine sachet. Home made raspberry Vinegar, A jar each of home made jam and marmalade and 2 jars of chutney plus a mini Dundee cake.
2016 = Fair Trade Drinking chocolate with mini marsh-mallows and home made chocolate spoons, two different sorts of home made marmalade, home made cranberry chutney and home made rum truffles.
2017= Strawberry Vodka, dried chili peppers, 2 different chutneys, orange and ginger marmalade, home made preserved ginger in syrup and a pack of  bought chocolate/peppermint sticks

Then I searched through my recipe folder, some plastic pockets at the back hold magazine cuttings and photo copies full of ideas for presents. (Moment of sadness when I found photocopies of bird boxes that Colin might have made one day)

 Next a look in the books from my kitchen shelf that might have ideas
 The Mary Berry book above dates from 1983 - before she was reinvented for Bake- Off. I had a flick through and came across the spelling of  Phyllo Pastry! Who knew it was written like that 30 years ago!

Then I looked on-line and scribbled down a couple of recipes.

Next job was to look in my jar box out in the garage to see what jars I'd got, then I picked the last few cooking apples and picked up some from the ground and  checked the "cellar" (a beer crate in the garage) to see what spirits I had left from last year.

Then I made a list of what I wanted to make and  after checking what dried fruit was already in the cupboard and making a shopping list, on Friday I crossed the border to shop in Diss (Norfolk!) as there is a "Grape Tree" shop there which is my favourite place for dried fruit and nuts and bought what I needed along with ingredients for my Christmas cake.

OK - better get started on the making.

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Saturday 27 October 2018

Fall Back

The clocks go back to Greenwich Mean Time at  2am but why do we change them twice a year?

I found this book which explains everything.
 The book also explains how time was measured in earlier days and how the railways brought the standardization of time through the country and how time zones in the USA and other large countries became the norm.

(My version below of why we alter the clocks is simplified...................a lot!)

The first mention of anything relating to daylight saving is by Benjamin Franklin who was staying in Paris when in 1784 he was awoken by the sun streaming into his room and was amazed to find it was daylight at 6 a.m - he normally didn't get up until noon! He worked out that Parisians would sleep through 7 hours of daylight but then need expensive candles to light them in the evenings. He reckoned by using sunlight instead of candlelight for their working day for 6 months of the year they could save 64,050,000 pounds weight of wax and tallow.  (he was assuming all Parisians slept until noon!). He wrote and put forward a plan for a 4 point "Economical Project"

1. let a tax be laid....on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun
2. let no family be permitted to be supplied with more than one pound of candles per week
3. let guards be posted to stop all coaches, etc in the streets after sunset
4. every morning as soon as the sun rises , let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient. let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectively, and make them open their eyes to their true interest.
 which( unsurprisingly!) wasn't taken up.

In the summer of 1905 in England, William Willett  was up at 7am, taking his early morning horseback ride. He was a well known designer and builder of stately homes, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
As usual he was the only person up and about except for a few postmen, milkmen or labourers and as usual he found it difficult to understand why his countrymen were wasting the best part of a summer day. But then at the end of the day their hobbies and activities (he was a passionate golfer) would have to stop  when it got dark in the early evening.
One day he came up with the idea of shifting the clocks forward to save daylight so that early morning's wasted sunlight could be used in the evenings without altering the time that people woke up.
In July 1907 he distributed a pamphlet "The Waste of Daylight" and started a campaign for the adoption of summer daylight saving time in the UK. On February 4th 1908 the MP for Leek, Robert Pearce, introduced a bill in Parliament " Pearce's Daylight Saving Bill". By March he had the support of 200 MPs  but more opposed it so it never became law. Willet carried on pushing his idea until he died in 1915.
Meanwhile other countries had heard about the idea and Daylight saving bills were introduced in Germany, Canada, New Zealand and parts of Australia.
It was WWI that persuaded governments in many other  places to adopt the idea of making more use of daylight in summer by changing the clocks.

 During the second world war GB adopted Double summer time, two hours forward. My Dad had just finished school to help on his parents farm and I can remember him saying how difficult it was for farmers with milking cows - because the cows didn't know about clocks and daylight saving!

Since then, every now and again there are ideas to change things. Some people would like British Summer Time  all year round and Double Summertime through the summer (me!) others would like us to align ourselves with mainland Europe. It's discussed on radio and TV every October but at the moment there is always opposition to any changes - mainly from people in Scotland! (Apologies to all readers from North of the border - just quoting the book!!)

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

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Friday 26 October 2018

The October Library Book Photo

My usual photo of books ordered and collected from the library van..................

............. whoops, I've chopped the top book off the photo, can't be bothered to take another. The top book is The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim a book reprinted from 1922 and I have no idea why I've ordered this - it must have been mentioned somewhere. Someone will tell me why I'm sure.
The book I'm most looking forward to reading is The Salt Path. The Skylarks War is another I've seen mentioned on a blog. It's actually a children's book about the Great War. The cover is lovely.
Lots of crime by authors I know and some I don't. The Bookshop Book explores the history of bookshops and asks authors for their favourites. It says "it's a love letter to bookshops all around the world". Right at the bottom is another cookery book to browse.  I've still got 4 books here, two from last month and two from the month before - really must do more reading!

What did I read from last month? and what went back unread?
The cookery book "gather" was perused without finding anything I wanted to make. "A Book of Silence" was skimmed but found a bit dry, interesting but long winded. "Gallows Court" I just couldn't get into. The five other crime books were all read/being read  including new Ann Cleeves and Ann Cleeves from before Vera and Shetland.
Book details are listed on the separate Books Read 2018.

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Thursday 25 October 2018

My Favourite Chutney

My favourite chutney of the moment is this bright red tomato, pepper and onion concoction. That's why I grow plum tomatoes. I had to put them in the freezer a few at a time but eventually got to nearly 4lb. They are best frozen anyway as when they thaw they produce a lot of water which can be tipped away before the chutney is made. There is rather a lot of sugar in this recipe so it's not exactly a healthy chutney!
As it only made 7 small jars I don't really want to give any away  although if I don't think of other things to make for hamper gifts I might have to, so I was going to say that's the only chutney I shall make this autumn.......... but maybe not. 

The recipe is on the separate recipe page - quite a long way down. It's called Red Hot and Sweet Relish (my name............... as its a mix of two recipes from books)

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Wednesday 24 October 2018

Windy Day at the Cottage + Have I Got Time?

I have no idea if this will work. I wanted to catch the windy day we had here yesterday. The picture is poor, the sound is awful but you get the general idea!

For a few years I've been doing Christmas hampers  filled with mainly home made goodies for my sister and brother-in-law and Colin's Sister and her husband. I was sure I wasn't going to do that this year. For one thing I've not made my usual large amount of chutneys and jam and I'm running out of other ideas. But then I got to thinking that if I didn't do hampers what the heck would I give for pressies this year?
Then over at Mama's Mercantile blog was an idea for a different sort of mincemeat, plus there was that book I found at a car boot sale a few weeks ago with some ideas........................

..............................and there's still a couple of months to go. So maybe I've got time to rustle up some gifts.

Better write a list!

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Tuesday 23 October 2018

Car Boot and Jumble Sale

After the week of enforced rest due to the back ache I went out to the Saturday Car-Boot sale at Needham Market.

Found a nice Christmas present for Willow........... wooden play table with things fixed to it to fiddle with was £4.50.
Also bought a child's apron for 20p, another Shirley Hughes book for 50p. Christmas stencil cards for the 2020 advent parcels also 50p.

After lunch I nipped a few miles along the back roads to Eye for the only Jumble sale I've seen advertised this Autumn. I battled the crowds and spent................40p! The 1000 piece puzzle has no big areas of sky, cliffs and sea like my last puzzle but a mass of different things in an old fashioned corner shop, they only wanted 20p - bargain! Hope it's complete as when I got home and opened the box I found the bits weren't even in a bag so some may have fallen out. (For 20p it doesn't matter too much as they'll go on the fire for a bit of extra kindling!)
The other 20p went on the Mousie, Mousie game which I seem to remember my sister had? or was it one of the children? -so either 50+ or 30+ years ago!

I've nearly finished the lifeboat jigsaw. I've been making sure I sit properly on the chair while doing it as I think it was perching on the edge of a chair and leaning over that made my back go ping a week ago.
No pieces missing so far and only the cliffs left to do. The sea and the sky were were not too bad but the cliff might take a while.

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Monday 22 October 2018

Apple ID at The Museum

Firstly, thanks to everyone for comments about card making, I'm not in a hurry to pass on everything to a charity shop yet and I'll ponder other ideas for later.

 I thought I'd go and look at The Cider and Song Festival at The Museum of East Anglian Rural Life in Stowmarket

I didn't go round the whole museum as I've been round lots of times and I didn't want to risk the back ache returning
 A new thing to see as you go in the museum is this..............5,864 Suffolk Puffs - find out more HERE
I headed here - to the apple identification tent as I wanted to find out what varieties the three apples were on my family tree. They said that family trees are nearly always Bramleys with two grafted varieties. One of my eating grafts is probably a James Grieve but they couldn't come up with a idea for the other. So it remains a mystery .

Then I had a wander round the rest of the museum

This building below is The Boby Building was one of the first moved here, it came from Bury St Edmunds I think - if I'm remembering correctly. Unfortunately they were having a special unveiling of their restored traction engine with only "important people" allowed through the barriers.This building is full of all the old crafts - like coopering and  a farrier and lots of other things that I've seen but can't remember. I didn't really want to hang around for half an hour so went and looked at the other buildings on site
Edgars Farmhouse was the first building moved here when the museum  opened. - definitely timber framed!

This pathway on the edge of the museum is an old medieval track "Crowe Lane" that would have been used to bring animals and produce down into the town for the weekly markets. It is many feet lower than the surrounding land.
In the Abbots Hall Barn there was a display of knitted poppies put together by local British Legion commemorating the 100 years since the end of WWI
Gypsy caravans have also been here for many many years
There are a couple of WWII huts which have room layouts from the 1950s

and Victorian times. These are used by local schools doing projects. Much of the museum work is educational.

I could have stayed longer and perhaps if I wasn't on my own maybe I would have done. Some things are better with company.

After a final look round the craft fair I went home for a late lunch

Son and DIL went with friends to the Saturday evening cider and song festival proper where there were 40 different ciders to try with lots of different folk bands. Needless to say they had booked a taxi home!

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Saturday 20 October 2018

Card Making..... Dilemmas, Discussion,Guilt and Decisions

 When I had a tidy up and move round in the craft room a few months ago I came to the conclusion that the only stuff I would keep would be card blanks and peel off labels  because cards made now are usually done with 3D decoupage sheets but that feels like cheating, or cross stitch, which I haven't done for ages.
All that it takes to make a  3D decoupage card is press out the die-cut pictures, layer them up as per their numbered layers using glue dots or double sided sticky tabs, mount them in or on a suitable card and add a peel-off greeting. Not creative and no skill involved.

Owning all the card making stuff that I have also means that if I see nice cards somewhere and buy them (like the ones I got from the art exhibition)   I then feel guilty because I know about the bits and bobs sitting on the shelves at home. What I don't have is things like die cutting machines and I'm never happy with cards I make from papers and toppers - I have no imagination!

I also don't want to shift everything yet again when it comes to the time to move house. But then on the other hand all the crafting stuff might come in handy when the grandchildren are bigger!

Anyway, over the last few weeks I've been using the die-cut sheets that I got from Craft Creations in the summer to make some birthday cards. They look OK (although 3D doesn't work in photos) but know they are quick to make and it just doesn't feel like proper card making.

So........... I think I've decided not to buy more craft stuff, to use the decoupage sheets I have  and then clear out most of the small bits and pieces. Then I'll search charity shops for nice cards.

...........I think I've decided.......... but I am allowed to change my mind!

Hope you all have  a lovely weekend. Welcome to some new followers, hope you enjoy reading

Back Monday

Friday 19 October 2018

Thoughts for Friday

Why, when there are beds and comfy chairs, has Polly decided to sleep on top of the printer, which is on a chest of drawers 4 foot off the ground? (I keep it covered with an old sheet to keep the dust out) Cats are so weird.

Watched a fascinating programme about building model railways - a competition for teams. Who knew how many model railway fanatics there are out there?  They were mostly men of course!

I shall never moan about Her Maj's Revenue and Customs again because they've just sent me a cheque for over £700 that Colin had overpaid in tax on his work pension in the year before he died. Col said he thought he was paying tax when he shouldn't be and I said it's OK we'll get a form and claim it back in the new tax year and then you know what happened in April and  May......... I never gave it another thought.

After watching a programme about the history of the Man Booker prize for fiction I know why I don't rush to read any books that win prizes - talk about a load of loveys!

Son (our middle child) was 37 last did that happen?

The windows are filthy when the sun shines on them ................I hate window cleaning

Now that I've bought a re-chargable lantern I bet the electric doesn't go off at all this winter.

Library van due next week and I still have 5 books unread.

The Invictus Games are on TV tonight - they are so inspiring.

Probably back tomorrow

P.S Thank you for comments yesterday and hello to a new follower and goodbye to whoever un-followed!

Thursday 18 October 2018

Dennington St. Mary

A Very Big church for a small village (population around 600)

The thing that gets this church into the 100 treasures book is this rare pyx canopy.  A what?

 I had to have a look on Wiki to get some more information, and this is what I found
A pyx or pix (Latin: pyxis, transliteration of Greek: πυξίς, boxwood receptacle, from πύξος, box tree) is a small round container used in the Catholic, Old Catholic and Anglican Churches to carry the consecrated host (Eucharist), to the sick or those otherwise unable to come to a church in order to receive Holy Communium. The term can also be used in archaeology and art history to describe small round lidded boxes designed for any purpose from antiquity or the Middle Ages.

The one in Dennington church dates from 1500 and is 5 foot tall and is the only one complete enough to be used for its original purpose in the whole country - goodness, very, VERY special.

It's a wide and long church with side aisles. There are box pews at the front of the church and the usual pews further back.
looking east

Both side aisle chapels have these rare elaborate medieval screens

There is some very unusual stained glass in this church apart from the usual scenes of saints and bible stories I notice this blue window.

Ancient heating pipes snake up and down the side aisles. I doubt they would have warmed  the church much. Although the gentry would have been inside their high side boxes to cut down the draughts.

The alabaster effigies over the tomb of William, Lord Bardolf who fought at Agincourt and died in 1441. His wife Joan lies beside him.

The pew ends at the back of the church are carved with all sorts of creatures, real and mythical.

In the north aisle is this very unusual sand table, where the village children would have learned to write their bible texts in the C19

A fascinating church to visit.

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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Still searching.............

.......but not often finding.
 Car boot sales is what I'm talking about and probably not often finding  because there isn't anything I need for myself!

A week ago, before the back went Ping,  I  actually got round to visiting the big Wednesday car-boot sale at Needham Market and found a few things for Christmas.

Seems everyone will be here for lunch on Christmas day including daughter-in-laws father and sister so I need just a little gift.
Found the slipper socks for 50p. The car cleaning sponge to go with something else for 20p. Had to pay £2.50 for the oven gloves but still a bargain. The book is for me to look through - it was 50p.. And then the children's torch - least said about this the better - as when I got it home and took out the old batteries I found the inside connections had completely rusted away so it had to go in the bin. Good thing it was only 50p.

I love the Winnie the Pooh bib which is for Willow on Christmas day t'was 20p and the only thing I got from the previous Sunday boot sale!

Thank you for comments yesterday, I would love to know who told us children that a sumach was called a vinegar tree and how I've remembered this for 50+ years.
 My back is much better but still not back to normal, no swimming for me this week that's for sure. Hope it gets right soon - I'm running out of posts in drafts, getting through so many books and itching to get outside to do more gardening.

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Tuesday 16 October 2018

The Vinegar Tree

Vinegar Tree?
Well, that's what they were called when I was small. We had two or three in the bit of the garden that was grass for us to play on. The rest of the "garden" was a builders yard, usually filled with heaps of bricks and huge sand and ballast heaps -this was before the days of builders bags.
The vinegar trees back then were small with branches that arched down to the ground - we could get right underneath. I think this one out the front of the house is old and suffers from being too close to the hedge and lack of moisture.
Their proper name is Stag's Horn Sumach and it's a native of North America. The name comes from the fact that in winter, without leaves the thick twigs resemble the antlers of a stag. The sumach part of the name is thought to come from North American Native people and traditionally a kind of lemonade was made by soaking the fruit in water.

The fruits are also dried to form a red powder called sumac which is used in Lebanese and Turkish cooking adding the flavour of lemon juice which is an acid as is vinegar, so that must be why we always knew them as vinegar trees.
Beginning of autumn is the time to gather the fruit before winter rain washes away the flavour.

They are one of the few trees that go bright orange and red in the winter so have always been popular for gardens. It isn't  a favourite tree of mine except for this time of year for it's colour.

( The photos were taken last week; after the windy weekend the leaves are now all on the ground)

Thank you for the get better soon comments yesterday, I'm still hobbling!

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Monday 15 October 2018

A Wasted Weekend

Some parts of the country have had awful weather over the weekend, so many flooded houses which must be soul destroying. Over here in Suffolk Saturday was mostly good and  I planned to visit the last day of an art exhibition  and some charity shops in a different town.

Then Saturday morning I sat at the table to put a few bits of jigsaw in before heading off to Diss and my blinkin' back went Ping....... B****r. Just like  July and even more painful.

So a weekend of struggling around  to feed the cat and  make drinks and food, resting with ice packs and hot water bottles (not both at once obviously!) and taking tablets. Nothing done except reading and watching TV.

When this happened in July I got very down and depressed, but not this time- thank goodness. But I really must do the exercises every day.

I have a few posts saved in drafts so back (Ha!) tomorrow.

Saturday 13 October 2018


Diaries have been in the shops for several weeks.............2019 is on its way.

I would be in a muddle without a diary,  it's used for  birthdays and appointments but I no longer write much more than that. My blog is now my diary and the Penny Pincher Letter that I write for 4 friends twice a year is a paper version.
A few months ago I wrote about the Letts Schoolgirl Diaries I had in the 1960s. After leaving school I don't remember keeping a diary but once I married it was needed again. Back in the days when we lived in a village and had a milkman I had Dairy Diaries. Then cheap diaries £1 from Poundland, then when I had more time my diary was A4 writing pads and I wrote lots everyday.
In 2017 I discovered the Country Wisdom and Folklore Diary with lots of extra information about traditions and folklore as it says on the cover "Keeping Alive the Old Ways". I wasn't sure whether  to buy one again this year but then  saw the Wheel of the Year  from the first page of the diary on Amazon.
I was tempted...............................who could resist?

It soon arrived and is fascinating as always. I'll share some bits on the blog next year.

If I'd been writing a diary last week it would have said I went swimming, finished all the flower pot washing, fixed the greenhouse staging, did some shopping, visited youngest daughter and Florence (she was 2 on Thursday- already!) and baked some scones as well as normal housework stuff.

And the lovely weather we had here was good for getting outside to clear up the garden. The worst bit was the asparagus bed because the sunflowers had collapsed on top of them. I'd tried to keep the sunflowers upright with a circle of canes and string - all to no avail and no wonder - as the stems of a couple of the sunflowers were like tree trucks, took ages to get them out of the ground. I need to finish weeding the soft fruit bed, put some beetroot into a sandbox for winter, fork over next years potato bed and disinfect the greenhouse, then I think the outside work will be done - until next year.

Have a lovely weekend everyone
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Friday 12 October 2018

St John the Baptist Church, Saxmundham

Now this church is quite a surprise.
The outside looks just the same  as it always has but inside it's been recently modernised.

Gone are the pews, replaced by comfy chairs. It's all white and bright, with  glass doors inside the old wooden entrance doors and more glass doors and walls around  the side chapel.

And in the back corner a brand new kitchen area, usually squashed into a vestry or side room this looks quite strange but useful -  as a church should be.

The feature that gets the church into the 100 treasures book is outside in the churchyard.
It's this gravestone with  built in sundial. Each side has this rectangle recess and the angle of the  sun should cast a shadow which marks the time.  The sun was shining but neither side was casting a shadow that I could see and there were no markings that I could see either. The board in the first photo says that the upper edge points to the North Star.

The hammer beam roof was revealed in 1932 when a plaster ceiling was removed,compared to some I've seen it is very plain.

The font dates from C15 and has lions and woodwoses (wild men) around the shaft  and shields around the bowl.

The glass ovals in the window below date from C17 and are believed to come from Innsbruck in Austria, they depict saints and secular scenes

I think this is the first lectern with a brass eagle that I've seen in any churches so far, he is rather magnificent.

The boards inside and outside the church help to explain more about the history of this ancient building which has undergone restoration many times through the years.

Living as we did just a couple of miles from Saxmundham I've been up and down the hill passing this church hundreds of times. For many years it had a sign " Welcome to our church" and every time I went by I thought it ought to say "Welcome to YOUR church". I'm pleased to say that someone must have heard me! because the new sign at the bottom of the path now just says in huge letters WELCOME.

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