Thursday, 16 February 2017
This morning we motored over to Littleport in Cambridgeshire, where we picked up daughter number three , Kerry. and drove on to our native village, Welney. We went to the one remaining hostelry, the Lamb and Flag, where we had a basic, but very pleasant, lunch, caught up on all the family news, and swapped Christmas presents. This was because Kerry was poorly over the Christmas season and had to cry off the boxing Day family do. She is now much better, I'm relieved to say, and is more or less back in mid-season form, so that we all three enjoyed a drawn out lunch and a VERY drawn out natter. After lunch we had a short walk to the Welney Churchyard, where we visited the family graves (which Kerry had been keeping in good order, bless 'er).
We then ran Kerry back to Littleport nicely in time to meet her son out of school, then drove home via Isleham. This is a small village set in the fen - the name tells it all - Isle Ham. It still has the feeling of an Island set in the fens. It's a pleasant little village with two churches, well within a couple of hundred yards of each other. One of them (the lower photograph) is the Priory Church of Saint Mary of Antioch, which is a small plain (but apsoidal) building, dating from around the year 1100. By the 16th century it had been made into a tithe barn, as it remained until around the year 1810.
A short distance along the same road stands Saint Andrew's Church (upper picture). Most of the present church dates from the 1300s, but there are a good many traces of several earlier buildings. The Church has a lych gate that dates from the late 1400s and is probably the earliest standing lych gate in East Anglia.
The inside of the church is fascinating. There is some early glass and rather nice wall painting in the porch, in the church is a fine angel roof, many lovely bench ends, memorial brasses, a fine brass Flemish lectern dating from the late 1400s, and the 'Peyton Tombs' dating from 1518 and 1550. I spent about twenty minutes taking photographs, and wished that I could spend a day there. Nothing to stop me going back there, of course, and I've got lots of photos for future blog use.
The problem between the two churches was that Saint Mary's of Antioch was endowed, soon after the conquest, by Alan, Count of Brittany; whilst Saint Andrew's Church has been there since Saxon days (over a thousand years now). In other words one of them was seen as French and the other as English. We all know how difficult the French have always been for civilised people like us to get on with, and I think that was the basis of the problems between the two churches in Isleham (although I may be over simplifying things a touch). Anyway - there they both still are, glaring at each other in a small village out in the middle of the fens, and not on the way to anywhere very much. They really are well worth a visit. I've not been to Isleham for about thirty years (can't think why not, and anyway that's a mistake that I intend righting quite soon - if spared).