18th July 1943

Dull morning, but sun came out about one.  Had breakfast and lunch almost together [with the Conrans at Higham], then the Conrans went off to a “tea-dance” and boxing-match (an odd combination) at Raydon Aerodrome.

Suddenly decided to go and see Lt Wenham Hall, after all these years.  Went across field tracks, past Dewlands Farm, where the Storeys live, and Lark Hall, which looks very nice, then took a wrong turning and found myself in Raydon village.  Saw the church, not very interesting, but has a good brass of T Raydon, 15th century.  There are a few old cottages against the church, but nothing very interesting.

Found the right road for Wenham, which now runs through the middle of the aerodrome.  Dozens of Americans about.  One block of huts called “Youngstown” and another “Alcatraz”.  One lot of huts are within a few yards of Gt. Wenham Church, where a family party were reading old tombstones and looking at some new graves.

Opposite the church is a very fine timber-framed house, built about 1500 I should imagine.

Having only a half inch map had some difficulty in finding Lt. Wenham Hall.  Went through a farmyard up to the old Hadleigh railway line, and then back, and at last found the entrance to the grounds.  I could not for the life of me remember Miss Crisp’s name, so had to ask two ladies who were walking down the drive. 

And there was the famous Hall, very mellow in the sunlight, with the modern house in pseudo-Elizabethan style not far away.  Saw Miss Crisp, and calmly said that I had come in answer to her invitation of eleven years ago.  She was rather surprised, but gave me the keys of the Hall and the church, and left me to my own devices.

The yellowy-grey Castle, looking very neat and compact, rises up from a smooth green lawn, with the farm buildings and the ancient church behind.  Its completeness and its perfect condition came as a surprise.  Went up the modern outside stair, unlocked the door, and found the main hall of the place arranged as a museum.  This is a splendid chamber, about 60 x 25 feet.  Miss Crisp is obviously a very religious woman, and collects “curios” in a mildly “dilettante” manner.  She has no less than 6 sets of wagon-bells, several cross-bows, muskets, a pot-hat, some good chests, a fine refectory table, an ophedeide in its original case, a drum, the Hadleigh Ringers’ Jug dated 1715, (Stock ware, much like the Braintree jug.)  There are also fire-irons, jacks, etc, and a fine “toasting dog” carved in wood, holding an iron toaster.  The most extraordinary object is an alleged clepsydia, inscribed “John Calver fecit 1652 Ipswych.”  This looks very doubtful to me, and somewhere I seem to remember having read about an antique-dealer making a number of these things some years ago, always inscribing them with convincing wording and dates.

The wooden window shutters are hung on the original hooks, and there are several carved and painted escutcheons on the walls.

Adjoining the hall is a tiny chapel, dedicated to St. Petronilla, obviously still in use.  The stairs in the Turret lead up to the leaded roof, from which there are fine views in every direction across the fields of waving barley.  Gt. Wenham church clock struck 5.

Went across the garden, everything beautifully kept, round by the farm buildings to the church.  Very nice indeed.  Apparently not very much used, but like the garden and the hall, kept in beautiful order.  The only seating consists of two ancient pews with linen-fold panelled backs, six forms, and nothing else.  The effect is really magnificent.  No church should ever have pews.  There is a founder’s tomb in the S. wall, but no effigy.  There is also a good brass of T. Brewse and his wife, 1513, and a lovely [tomb] of J. Brewse, 1585, on the S. side of the chancel.

The chancel screen is most curious – a solid stone wall, 4’ high.  There are also the stairs to the Rood, and a nice new oak pulpit.

Took back the keys, cycled through Gt. Wenham to the main road, and reached Stratford at 20 to 6.  Went down to Dedham, had tea at the café, called at Sisson’s, and was in Colchester at 9.  Called at home, parents quite well, then up to the Holly Trees, talking to Poulter about the Archaeological Conference until after 11.  Hull is going, but I don't think I shall be able to.

Am now in the Oven, writing this, and all is very quiet, no sound but the stirrings of the watchers above and the scurryings of mice under the bed.  The moon was rising behind clouds when I came in.

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