Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Orford, Suffolk

The wild side

January is likely to prove busy for me and anyway is a month often beset with the kind of weather that discourages travel and the photography of buildings. It therefore seems a good time to share an image or two from my Suffolk trip of a couple of months ago. I’m beginning with the parish church of the settlement at Orford, by the River Alde where it reaches Orford Ness and the sea. It’s a somewhat remote, quiet place now, and certainly was in the early Middle Ages, but this changed when Henry II built the great castle there in the 12th century. Along with the castle came a large church, servicing what must have been a much expanded town, with a large chancel flanked with arcades of semicircular arches.

By the 18th century the place was remote once more and the church had fallen into disrepair, with the once magnificent chancel in ruins. The Victorians hatched an ambitious plan to restore the church and the great Gothic specialist George Edmund Street was put on the case. But Street’s plans were not carried out and instead a slow, phased restoration was carried out that only ever got as far as the nave and aisles, which make a pleasant and sizeable church in their own right. The chancel was left in ruins.

And so it remains. Repairs in 1930 ensured that the ruins were stabilized. One range of arches, plus a couple of piers on the other side, remain as a reminder of past magnificence. As I have a weakness for ruins, especially those capable of sprouting a little vegetation without sustaining major damage, I rather like it this way, with the tussocky grass growing around the column bases. There’s space enough in the churchyard for a more kempt area around the main body of the church. In my book, there’s room for both the roofed building and the ruin, the neat and the unruly, the tame and the wild.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Another brilliant ruin is at St Olaves near Lowestoft. Very evocative Augustinian Priory. St Olave appears to be the Viking warrior saint, Olaf. A local resident said they still regarded themselves as Danes around there. Nothing Danish particularly about the ruin: I lingered there as long as I could.