And so, as we tentatively dip our toes into 2013, we arrive at, and surpass, 100,000 pageviews. Nothing to some, something to others. Well, it's certainly something to me. And once again, I'd like to thank everyone that has taken the time and trouble to drop by. It is much appreciated. By way of a thank you, the 1st person to email in their name and address, will win a copy of the Penguin book 'A Festival on the River: The Story of Southbank Centre'.
Many years ago, I used to visit a blog called Found Objects. It didn't take me long to realise that it wasn't for me and I subsequently went on to set-up The Hauntological Society. During my time, a poll was run, asking visitors the question "What is the most Hauntological county?".
I opted for Norfolk, North Norfolk, to be precise. However, I lost out to Suffolk, the eventual winner. Now, I'm not saying Suffolk isn't Hauntological, I just think that, in many ways, it's the path of least resistance. For instance, M. R. James may have based the majority of his stories in Suffolk, but when we think of his work and close our eyes, we see Michael Hordern running across the sands at Waxham. That's just one example, there are others.
That said, I should imagine that if you looked hard enough, you could find the past and the future converging on the present, in every corner of this haunted island. But, all things considered, for me, personally, Norfolk and North Norfolk in particular, holds a certain fascination, in this respect.
The former Royal Air Force Station Langham, more commonly known as RAF Langham was a Royal Air Force station, a military airbase, 15 miles North-West of Norwich, in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia, from 1940 to 1961.
The airfield was originally equipped with three grass runways. Originally opened as a satellite station for RAF Bircham Newton, the station became independent in 1942, when it was upgraded with concrete runways, perimeter track and hardstandings, and there is evidence to suggest that it was equipped with the FIDO fog dispersal system. In 1947 the station was placed into care and maintenance, but it was reactivated during the Korean War. It was later used as an emergency landing strip for RAF Sculthorpe, before final closure in 1961. The station was purchased by Bernard Matthews, who constructed turkey sheds on the runways. The turkey farm is now operated by another farmer, but the construction of the sheds has preserved large sections of the runways. Surviving buildings on the site include the control tower and a dome trainer building used for the instruction of ground to air anti-aircraft gunnery.
Further information here & here. More screenshots here.
Castle Acre Priory, in the village of Castle Acre, Norfolk, England, is thought to have been founded in 1089 by William de Warenne the son the 1st Earl of Surrey who had founded England's first Cluniac priory at Lewes in 1077.
The order originated from Burgundy. Originally the priory was sited within the walls of Castle Acre Castle, but this proved too small and inconvenient for the monks, hence the priory was relocated to the present site in the castle grounds about one year later. The church itself was consecrated sometime between 1146 and 1148. While the Warenne family may have been the main benefactors of the priory, others also gave generously to it, for example Scolland, steward of Alan Earl of Richmond, who was in fact buried there. Like other Cluniac houses, Castle Acre Priory was directly subject to the authority of the Abbot of Cluny; for practical reasons, however, the Prior of Lewes was usually instructed to act for the abbot when any problems arose at Castle Acre. However, this obedience owed to a foreign abbot caused difficulties when the kings of England were at odds with France and/or Burgundy. In the mid 14th century the English Cluniacs settled this difficulty by buying a special legal recognition from the king as 'native' religious houses. The priory was home to some 20 to 30 monks. The nave of the church is one of the oldest parts of the ruin, however subsequent additions continued to be added up until the priory was dissolved in 1537 under Henry VIII, and when the King gave the dissolved priory to the Duke of Norfolk complete with its estates, the remaining monks were turned out. The estates eventually passed to Sir Edward Coke, whose descendant, the Earl of Leicester now owns the ruins and Castle Acre Castle. The ruins today are very impressive, the great west front of the building is almost complete, and the prior's lodging is in a similar condition. The priory is now in the care of English Heritage, along with the nearby Castle Acre Bailey Gate and Castle Acre Castle.
Note: Beginning scenes of The Tomb of Ligeia classic horror movie (1964, directed by Roger Corman, starring: Vincent Price) were shot at Castle Acre Priory ruins. It was also used in the award winning Children's TV Show Knightmare as "The Ruins of Dungarth".
Further information here, here & here.
Poppy Land is a term coined in the 19th Century by the poet and theatre critic Clement Scott. Poppy Land generally refers to the section of the North Norfolk coast from Sheringham to Mundesley.
Scott first visited the area in 1883 courtesy of the new railway line from Norwich to Cromer. Disembarking at Cromer, he was unable to secure accommodation and so walked along the coast to Overstrand and Sidestrand. Here he found accommodation at the Mill House and, by accident, discovered the rural idyll he was searching for. His subsequent letters to the Daily Telegraph and his book Poppy-Land - Papers Descriptive on the East Coast (1886) helped to popularise this unspoilt section of Norfolk and many other Victorians followed in his footsteps. The actual term 'Poppyland' first appeared in Scott's poem The Garden of Sleep - which was composed in Sidestrand churchyard. The church was situated close to the cliff edge and its tower finally toppled onto the beach in 1916. The current church at Sidestrand was rebuilt in 1881 using flint from the original church. However, a new tower was constructed which was a replica of the original 15th century octagon. The miller's daughter who Scott fell in love with - Louie Jermy - is buried in the graveyard of the church.
The Garden of Sleep:
On the grass of the cliff, at the edge of the steep,
God planted a garden - a garden of sleep!
'Neath the blue of sky, in the green of the corn,
It is there that the regal red poppies are born!
Brief days of desire, and long dreams of delight,
They are mine when Poppy-Land cometh in sight.
In music of distance, with eyes that are wet,
It is there I remember, and there I forget!
O! heart of my heart! where the poppies are born,
I am waiting for thee, in the hush of the corn.
From the Cliff to the Deep!
Sleep, my Poppy-Land,
In my garden of sleep, where red poppies are spread,
I wait for the living, alone with the dead!
For a tower in ruins stands guard o'er the deep,
At whose feet are green graves of dear women asleep!
Did they love as I love, when they lived by the sea?
Did they wait as I wait, for the days that may be?
Was it hope or fulfilling that entered each breast,
Ere death gave release, and the poppies gave rest?
O! life of my life! on the cliffs by the sea,
By the graves in the grass, I am waiting for thee!
In the Dews of the Deep!
Sleep, my Poppy-Land,
Scott wasn't a particularly inspired poet and his poems are often simple or overly influenced by Swinburne, but his writing helped to kick-start the Norfolk tourist industry. Today however, fields of poppies are less common due to modern farming techniques.
The railway line which brought the early tourists to Poppy land is still operated by British Rail as far as Sheringham but then becomes a heritage line (the North Norfolk railway) from Sheringham to Holt. This part of the line was axed during the 1960s by Dr Beeching. It is often referred to today as the 'Poppy Line'.
Poppyland still attracts holidaymakers - but resorts like Cromer do now exude an air of decayed grandeur. However, I'm sure that Scott would still recognise the area - even if it has turned partly into the 'Bungalow Land' that he feared.
Further information here, here & here.