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East Bergholt

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East Bergholt is a small village in the Babergh District of Suffolk, north of the Essex border.


Both East Bergholt and Hadleigh are considered the largest villages in the Stour Valley, a region that’s historically known for its manufacture of linens. The village is also twinned with another called Barbizon in France.

The nearest town and railway station lies in Manningtree, Essex. East Bergholt is also ten miles north of Colchester and 8 miles south of Ipswich. The two main schools are East Bergholt High School, a comprehensive for kids aged between 11-16 and a primary school.

History


In the 16th century, people that lived there became well known for Protestant radicalism. Some of their citizens were even martyred during Queen Mary I’s reign, and their stories were recorded in Protestant martyologist John Foxe’s famous ‘Acts and Monuments’ book.

East Bergholt is also the birthplace of painter John Constable, whose father owned Flatford Mill. Both Flatford and Dedham were both made famous by Constable, and are within walking distance of East Bergholt.

St Mary’s Church was built in the 15th and 16th centuries and is well known because it doesn’t have a tower or spire to house the bells. The tower’s build began in 1525, but construction was halted after Cardinal Wolsey’s fall from grace, but the following year a wooden bell cage was built in the churchyard.

The structure still sits there although it’s not in its original position. It was actually moved from the south to the north side of the church sometime in the 17th century because the occupant of Old Hall protested the noise of the bells. The bells however are not rung from below by ropes attached to wheels, but the headstock is controlled by hand ringers standing next to the bells. They are believed to be the heaviest five that are rung in England today, with a total weight of 4 ¼ tons.

The entrance to the church is located on the south porch, with the priest’s room sitting right above, which was made famous by John Constable’s painting ‘View Towards Stratford St Mary Church’. The oldest part of the church is the mid 14th century cross-wall on both sides of the chancel arch. The Easter sepulchre displaying the resurrection is in the north wall near the sanctuary. The cross was put in the recess on Good Friday and carried in procession to the altar on Easter morning.

Also, Constable’s memorial window is located in the south aisle, where you can see his original sketch of the chancel and sanctuary as well as an engraving of Willie Lott’s cottage at Flatford.

Old Hall is one of the oldest buildings in East Bergholt’s history. With its 100 rooms and 355 windows, it has been a manor house, nunnery, army barracks and friary. Nowadays it hosts the Old Hall Community, a standalone household of about 60 people who are brought together by their passion of living co-operatively and farm organically.

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