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Culture and landscape
Suffolk landscape types
Fields in landscapes
Thoughts about space
The village from the east circa 1930: F. Jenkins
The Viilage from the south circa 1930: F. Jenkins
The history of Blythburgh emerges in 654 when the Christian King Anna, of the East Anglian House of Redwald, and his son were 'failed in battle' against Penda, pagan King of the Mercians, at Bulcamp. They were brought for burial across the river to Blythburgh Church, which was probably no more than a small timber building. Local thought has it that the cortege in passing west of Bulcamp Hill, gave the name King's Low, in use to-day, to the sandy track there.
Dr. M. R. James in his " Suffolk and Norfolk " writes :
"The next king of the East Angles after Sigebert was also a saint and martyr, Anna, nephew of Redwald and father of at least five sainted persons--four women and a man. The women were Etheldreda (of Ely), Ethelburga (of Faremoutier in France), Sexburga queen of Kent, and Withburga of East Dereham; the man was Jurmin, of whom more anon. Anna, like Sigebert, fell in battle in fighting against the old heathen Penda, in 654, after a reign of nineteen years. This happened in the neighbourhood of Blythburgh.
In that same battle Jurmin also fell. His name is often miswritten as Germanus or Firminus ; his body did rest at Blythburgh for a long time. In the eleventh century it was appropriated, no doubt to the disgust of the Blythburgh people, by the masterful convent of Bury and there at or near the Chapel of the Virgin in the central apse of the Abbey Church (as I think) a handsome silver shrine contained it until the Dissolution"
Janet Becker (1933) puts Blythburgh firmly at the heart of the people of the Blyth.
After travelling eighteen miles from its spring at Laxfield to within sight of the coast, the river turned south at right angles and meandered another three miles before it joined the sea. To its banks came settlers and called it the Blythe, because it was in their Anglo-Saxon tongue a pleasant valley to make their home. The names of the villages they founded along the margin of its stream still bespeak the early agricultural development of the district, but before the fields were cleared and the farms or tons built where now Laxfield and Bulcamp, Ubbeston and Wenhaston stand, the Celts had discovered the mouth of the river formed an excellent harbour, and had founded by it a settlement to which they gave the name of Dunmoc or Dunwich-" the port with a deep water approach"--in time to become a town considered by the Romans important enough to be served by the great road they constructed from Colchester to Caister near Norwich. Part of this road can yet be traced crossing Westleton Heath in its detour to reach Dunwich, and since it is known to have continued to Bungay past Blyford Church, it must necessarily have run through Blythburgh. whose very name---the borough or station on the Blyth. supports its Roman origin as strongly as the presence of burial urns in its soil. It is sometimes spelt and pronounced Bliburgh, because the Normans failed in their attempts to say the English 'th'.
Blythburgh, guide books and gazetteers tell us, stands on the main London-Yarmouth road. It also stands on the once navigable River Blythe, now taking so narrow and leisurely a course through the valley as to be of no seeming importance. But with the flowing of that river runs the history of Blythburgh.
Dunwich, easy of access by sea and land, and on that account frequented by traders from an early date, became a great centre of activity and influence when, in 631, St. Felix, the Burgundian Bishop and missionary, founded his See for the Diocese of East Anglia there. His work in the neighbourhood resulted in the building of churches, and before Domesday Book was written there were forty within a ten mile radius of Dunwich"
Norman Scarfe believes that the recorded presence of early Christian tombs, taken together with the discovery of a 7th century writing tablet, strongly implies that there was a royal minster at Blythburgh in the Dark Ages. The glebe was about ten times larger than that of the average. At Domesday, Blythburgh was listed as a market town and one of the hereditary possessions of King Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror. This, and the ancient sloke rights of the kings, indicates that Blythburgh was a royal estate that had passed down from the first East Anglian Kings. Originally, this settlement at the head of the Blyth estuary was probably the tribal headquarters of the Celts who occupied the river's watershed lands, which subsequently became the pre-Danish taxable unit of the Saxon regal administration as well as an ancient possession of the English kings.
A short history of Blythburgh
Holy Trinity Church
The Priory of Blythburgh
Things of the spirit
Enclosure of Common, 1862
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