Siegfried Sassoon

Edingthorpe

When Sassoon was a child, he spent many a happy holiday with his mother and brothers at the Old Rectory in Edingthorpe, Norfolk. In 1937 Sassoon revisited the village and wrote about his memories in ‘The Old Century and Seven More Years’ [1938], and repeated in ‘The Flower Show Match and Other Pieces’ [1941]. I visited Edingthorpe in 1994 and took the pictures found on this page making reference to their part in Sassoon’s story.

Flower Show Match and Other Pieces

Left: The Flower Show Match and Other Pieces in which Siegfried Sassoon recorded the chapter recounting his return visit to Edingthorpe in 1937.

When Sassoon was a small boy, he and his two brothers, Michael and Hamo, would be taken by their mother to spend two weeks summer holiday every August at the Old Rectory, Edingthorpe, on the Norfolk coast. Returning one day to relive those memories, Sassoon first stopped at a hotel for lunch at the Norfolk town of North Walsham. He recalls that he had forgotten that the church tower had fallen down a hundred years before during a great gale.

As can be seen (right) the patched up church tower at North Walsham still remains unrepaired.

North Walsham Church

Sassoon drove the five miles from North Walsham to Edingthorpe in his car, following the same route as in those far off days when they had travelled together in the old rectory carriage. He wrote:

    “Slower and slower I drove, until I came to the signpost where four lanes meet. There was the black stagnant pond with a few ducks on it - longer and narrower than it had been in my rememberings... It had always been an unprepossessing, unfishable pond. On the opposite bank were some trees which I couldn’t remember... Leaving the car at the crossroads, I strolled up the lane.”

Edingthorpe Pond

Left: In 1994 the pond still remains and in the background is the signpost at the crossroads where, just as Sassoon did, I parked my car before walking down the lane to the old rectory.

The row of trees still line the opposite bank of the pond which remains stagnant, and in 1994, very low. My wife Mandy sits on the low railing (introduced after Sassoon’s visit) she holds my battered copy of “The Flower Show Match...” in her hands.

Sassoon continued:

    “Leaving the car at the crossroads, I strolled up the lane. The Rectory was only a couple of hundred yards away now, and I felt quite excited... when I leant my elbows on the front gate (below left, is this the same gate?), I saw a fragment of 1897 quite clearly. There hadn’t been those prosperous fuchsias below the windows then (below right, the fuchsias are still there), but it was just such an afternoon as this and just about the same time of day (three o’clock by my watch).”

Edingthorpe Rectory Gate Edingthorpe Rectory

Sassoon left the rectory and headed off across a stubble field toward the church which sat on a knoll about half a mile away:

    “The church caught me napping. I had failed to remember that it had a thatched roof... I could only remember an hour-glass in an iron frame on the pulpit, and how the earnest-featured young locum tenens parson had once interrupted his sermon by striding swiftly down to eject some misbehaving village boy. I would have liked to know that the hour-glass was still there - to turn it over and watch the trickling sand; but the church door was locked and I couldn’t see much of the interior through the narrow plain-glass windows.”

Edingthorpe Church

Edingthorpe Church

The hour-glass has gone, but the iron frame remains

Edingthorpe Church Interior
Edingthorpe Church Lych-Gate

Left: Edingthorpe Church lych-gate.

Unable to gain access to the interior of the church, Sassoon began to walk slowly around the graveyard.

    “... I was standing before the lych-gate now - that newcomer which had been there less than twenty years. Its carved lettering told me that it was in loving memory of a young lance-corporal of the Norfolk Regiment. ‘He fought at Mons, Le Cateau, The Marne, The Aisne, The First Battle of Ypres, and at Hill 60, and went down in the torpedoed Transport Royal Edward in the Aegean Sea, 13th August 1915.’”

Sassoon continued:

    “Here anyhow was someone who must have remembered that little church on the green rising ground, for his father had been rector for nineteen years and was buried close to the lych-gate.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds the information that Lance Corporal, Bernard John Muriel, whom this gate commemorates, was actually in the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment. He is also commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

Sassoon picked a poppy and a cornflower and left them on a ledge under the lych-gate, after which he went for a walk along the farm lane and into the rectory garden where he recalled sitting reading as a boy. From there he returned to the crossroads where he had left his car.

UPDATE October 2010 Yvette Dixon, has contacted me to provide the following information: The hour glass was removed as it broke, and the lych gates have been gone for about two years to be repaired. The roof is being thatched and will be opening soon. The pond is still there but is having more luck with ducks.

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